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

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  • Commission Members Contribute to Successful Parliamentary Assembly Session

    WASHINGTON - Members of the United States Helsinki Commission returned to Washington last week after successfully promoting measures to improve the conditions of human rights, security and economic development throughout Europe. The Helsinki Commission Members were among a congressional delegation attending the tenth annual Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe held at the French National Assembly in Paris. Helsinki Commission Chairman Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO) sponsored a resolution calling for lawmakers abroad to enact specific legislation designed to combat international crime and corruption. The resolution also urged the OSCE Ministerial Council, expected to meet in the Romanian capital of Bucharest this November, to consider practical means of promoting cooperation among the participating States in combating corruption and international crime. Commission Co-Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) sponsored the two resolutions at the Parliamentary Assembly. Smith’s anti-torture resolution called on participating States to exclude in courts of law or legal proceedings evidence obtained through the use of torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Smith also worked with the French delegation to promote a measure against human trafficking in the OSCE region. The Parliamentary Assembly adopted a resolution sponsored by Commission Ranking Member Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD) which called on all OSCE states to ensure freedom of speech and freedom of the press in their societies. Hoyer said an open, vibrant and pluralistic media is the cornerstone of democracy. He noted that free press is under attack in some OSCE countries. Commission Member Senator George V. Voinovich (R-OH) sponsored a resolution promoting greater stability in Southeast Europe. Senator Voinovich’s resolution pushed for a political solution to the violence and instability which has engrossed southeastern Europe. Commission Member Rep. Louise McIntosh Slaughter (D-NY) successfully sought measures toward protecting religious liberties and recognizing the importance of property restitution. Mrs. Slaughter’s amendment noted that OSCE participating States have committed to respecting fundamental religious freedoms. Another amendment recognized that attempts to secure compensation and restitution for losses perpetrated by the Nazis can only deliver a measure of justice to victims and their heirs. Commission Member Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) sponsored a resolution on the North Caucasus region of the Russian Federation which denounced the excessive force used by Russian military personnel against civilians in Chechnya. The resolution condemns all forms of terrorism committed by the Russian military and Chechen fighters. One of Cardin’s amendments addressed the restitution of property seized by the Nazis and Communists during and after World War II. The newest Member of the Helsinki Commission, Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), was elected to a three-year term as one of nine Vice President of the Parliamentary Assembly. Mr. Hastings most recently served as Chairman of the Assembly’s General Committee on Political Affairs and Security. Helsinki Commission Member Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) played an active role in debate over the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Commission Members Rep. Joseph R. Pitts (R-PA) and Rep. Zach Wamp (R-TN) were also a part of the United States delegation to the OSCE PA. During the Parliamentary Assembly, members of the U.S. delegation held a series of meetings, including bilateral sessions with representatives from the Russian Federation, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Kazakhstan. The delegation also met with the president of the French National Assembly. The central theme of the tenth annual OSCE PA was “European Security and Conflict Prevention: Challenges to the OSCE in the 21st Century.” Nearly 300 parliamentarians from 52 nations participated in the session. The Paris declaration of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly is available on the Internet at http://www.osce.org/pa. En route to the Parliamentary Assembly, the U.S. delegation stopped in Normandy, France to pay their respect to Americans killed in D-Day operations. Maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission, the cemetery at Normandy’s Omaha Beach is the final resting place for 9,386 American service men and women and honors the memory of the 1,557 missing. The United States Helsinki Commission, an independent federal agency, by law monitors and encourages progress in implementing provisions of the Helsinki Accords. The Commission, created in 1976, is composed of nine Senators, nine Representatives and one official each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce. Additional information about the Commission is available on the Internet at http://www.csce.gov.

  • Helsinki Commissioners Praise First Annual Report on Trafficking in Persons

    WASHINGTON - United States Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) and Commissioner Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), principal sponsors of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act, commended the State Department for its first annual report on human trafficking on Thursday. “Friends don’t let friends commit human rights violations,” Smith said. “With the release of this report on trafficking in persons, the United States has demonstrated bold leadership in the battle to end the trade in human beings. We wrote this law precisely for the purpose of setting a benchmark from which to judge the efforts and progress in those countries where the trafficking problems are most egregious,” Smith said. Trafficking in human beings “includes the classic and awful elements associated with historic slavery such as abduction from family and home, use of false promises, transport to a strange country, loss of freedom and personal dignity, extreme physical abuse and depravation,” said Sen. Brownback. The report is mandated by the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act, which was signed into law on October 28, 2000. The State Department will issue the Trafficking in Persons report annually and may also issue interim reports. Beginning in 2003, those countries that are listed in Tier 3—signifying that they do not satisfy the law’s minimum standards to combat trafficking and are not making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards—may be denied non-humanitarian assistance from the United States, barring a Presidential waiver. Nine of the current “Tier 3" countries—namely Albania, Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Greece, Kazakhstan, Romania, Russia, Turkey, and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia—have committed in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to punish those who traffic in human beings and to better protect their victims. “The United States expects the OSCE countries to fulfill their commitments. If the countries listed in Tier 3 needed a reminder of the importance that the United States places on combating human trafficking, then this report is it,” Smith said. Earlier this week, Smith successfully advanced a resolution against trafficking at the annual meeting of the OSCE’s Parliamentary Assembly. “This report will serve as a catalyst for reinvigorated international efforts to end this scourge,” said Smith. “We will just as vigilantly work to expeditiously implement those provisions of the legislation that provide tough new penalties for persons convicted of trafficking in the United States—up to life imprisonment—as well as compassionate new protections for victims of trafficking here,” said Smith.

  • Helsinki Commission Chairman Succeeds with Anti-Corruption Measure at Parliamentary Assembly

    WASHINGTON - United States Helsinki Commission Chairman Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO) returned to Washington this week after successfully pushing for a measure to combat international crime and corruption in the expansive 55-nation OSCE region. Campbell sponsored a resolution at the tenth annual Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe meeting in the French National Assembly in Paris, calling for lawmakers abroad to enact specific legislation designed to combat international crime and corruption. The resolution also urges the OSCE Ministerial Council, expected to meet in the Romanian capital of Bucharest this November, to consider practical means of promoting cooperation among the participating States in combating corruption and international crime. "Widespread corruption is a threat to the stability and security of societies,” Campbell said. “International crime and corruption undermines democracy and jeopardizes social, political and economic development. It hinders economic development, inflates the costs of doing business, and undermines the legitimacy of the government and public trust." As Chairman of the Helsinki Commission, Campbell led a delegation of U.S. Senators and Representatives to the OSCE PA, a gathering of nearly 300 parliamentarians, including the heads of seven parliaments. The international crime and corruption resolution supports the criminalization of corruption and promotes effective law enforcement agencies that prosecute corruption. Campbell’s resolution also encourages a legal framework for commerce, including anti-bribery laws, commercial codes that incorporate international standards for business practices and protection of intellectual property rights. Chairman Campbell used the opportunity to focus his efforts toward improving the climate for American businesses operating overseas. A former deputy sheriff, Chairman Campbell has a particular interest in the affects of international crime and corruption on American businesses and their employees. Campbell met with Paris law enforcement officials and American-owned businesses operating in France and elsewhere in Europe. Campbell also met with Mr. Michael Delpuech, Chief of Staff for the Director of Paris Police. The two discussed additional measures that can be taken against international crime and corruption and supported increased collaboration between French law enforcement officials and their American counterparts to fight crime. "Corruption among government officials at any level in any country negatively affects the United States when businesses suffer losses at the hands of illicit actions by foreign leaders," Campbell added. "It is incumbent upon parliamentarians from each of the OSCE's 55 participating States to enact and implement legislation to combat corruption at every level." Chairman Campbell, the only American Indian currently serving in the United States Senate, also sponsored the first amendment in the Assembly’s ten-year history acknowledging the plight of indigenous peoples. Campbell’s amendment urges OSCE participating States to promote social, educational and economic opportunity for indigenous peoples, many of whom have suffered from centuries of discrimination and isolation, and to foster community, economic, and business development in their communities. The Declaration of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, including Chairman Campbell’s resolution on the international crime and corruption is located on the Internet at http://www.osce.org/pa. The United States Helsinki Commission by law monitors and encourages progress in implementing provisions of the Helsinki Accords. The Commission, created in 1976, is composed of nine Senators, nine Representatives and one official each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce.

  • Smith Hails Success at Parliamentary Assembly

    WASHINGTON - United States Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) returned to Washington this week after successfully promoting measures against human trafficking and torture during negotiations at the tenth annual session of legislators from throughout Europe. “I am pleased to have had the opportunity to promote measures against two horrific human rights abuses: trafficking human beings into slavery-type exploitation and incommunicado detention, a practice which denies detainees contact with the outside world, facilitating torture and other abuses,” Smith said. Co-Chairman Smith sponsored the two resolutions at the tenth annual Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe held July 6-10, 2001 at the French National Assembly in Paris. Co-Chairman Smith’s anti-torture resolution calls on participating States to exclude evidence obtained through the use of torture, or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in courts of law or legal proceedings. It also calls for a complete ban, in law and in practice, on incommunicado detention. “In too many instances, the use of incommunicado detention continues to foster an environment in which torture or other forms of abuse can and do occur,” Smith said. “This practice must be stopped and the OSCE participating States should commit to this in unequivocal terms.” Co-Chairman Smith also worked with the French delegation to promote a measure against human trafficking in the OSCE region, an issue he also highlighted at prior assembly meetings in St. Petersburg (1999) and Bucharest (2000). The U.S.–French resolution appeals to governments to review their domestic laws to ensure that trafficking in human beings is considered a criminal offense and that penalties are established that reflect the grievous human rights abuses perpetrated by traffickers. The resolution also calls for protection of the rights of trafficking victims. Co-Chairman Smith has been actively involved in these issues in the United States. In October 2000, Congress passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 sponsored by Smith. The bill was signed into law on October 28, 2000. Co-Chairman Smith also sponsored the Torture Victims Relief Act which became public law on October 30, 1998. “Trafficking in human beings is a form of modern day slavery,” said Smith. “The international community has made it clear that lawmakers must declare war on those that commit these crimes.” The Declaration of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, including Co-Chairman Smith’s resolutions on the prevention of torture and abuse and on combating trafficking of human beings is located on the Internet at http://www.osce.org/pa.

  • Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Denounces Death of Uzbek Held in Police Custody

    WASHINGTON - United States Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) today condemned the death-in-detention of former Uzbek parliamentarian Shovriq Rusimorodov, an activist with the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan. “The death of Shovriq Rusimorodov was a preventable tragedy that shames the Uzbek Government,” Smith said. “On June 15, Uzbek authorities arrested Mr. Rusimorodov – again – in violation of due process and the rule of law. He was held incommunicado until his death, cut off from lawyers, independent medical assistance, and his family. Less than a month later, on July 7, his body was delivered to his grieving family.” “Just over a year ago, I spoke out regarding the case of Mamadali Makhmudov, another activist who is also imprisoned in Uzbekistan. I said there is serious reason to fear that he would not survive the conditions of his incarceration. The death of Shovriq Rusimordov illustrates how valid those concerns still are – for Makhmudov, for Elena Urlaeva, and for others who are being tortured in Uzbekistan.” Shovriq Rusimorodov was elected to the Uzbek parliament in 1990. After joining the Birlik (Unity) party, he was arrested three times for his opposition activities (1991, 1998, and 2001). Mamadali Makhmudov, a renowned Uzbek writer, was convicted in August 1999 in a trial marred by violations of due process. He has been tortured in prison and denied contact with independent non-governmental representatives. He is reportedly in grave condition. Opposition activist Elena Urlaeva has been incarcerated in a psychiatric institution, recalling the tactics of Soviet-era brutality. “Just a few days ago,” continued Mr. Smith, “at the OSCE’s Parliamentary Assembly meeting in Paris, I introduced a resolution calling for the complete ban, in law and in practice, of incommunicado detention, a practice that denies detainees contact with the outside world. Incommunicado detention is the hand-maiden of torturers everywhere, helping them to engage in their nefarious practices by stealth. It must be stopped.” “Accordingly, I call on the Government of Uzbekistan: • to allow representatives of the OSCE and International Committee of the Red Cross to meet with Makhmudov, Urlaeva, and others who are reportedly tortured; • to permit those in the custody of the government to have access to representatives of independent, non-governmental bodies, such as Amnesty International, Doctors without Borders, Human Rights Watch, and Physicians for Human Rights; • to allow independent forensic experts to examine the body of Shovriq Rusimorodov; • to conduct a transparent and impartial investigation into the death of Mr. Rusimorodov and to hold accountable those who have violated the law; • to adopt, in law and in practice, a complete prohibition on incommunicado detention; and • to undertake a transparent review of all cases where persons may be incarcerated for political or religious views with a view to releasing those wrongly imprisoned.” The Declaration of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, including Co-Chairman Smith’s resolution on the prevention of torture and abuse will be posted at www.osce.org/pa. Uzbekistan adopted the OSCE Charter for European Security in 1999, which states: “We are committed to eradicating torture and cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment throughout the OSCE area. To this end, we will promote legislation to provide procedural and substantive safeguards and remedies to combat these practices. We will assist victims and co-operate with relevant international organizations and non-governmental organizations, as appropriate.”

  • Helsinki Commission Chairman Introduces Anti-Corruption Measure at OSCE Parliamentary Assembly

    PARIS - United States Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO) sponsored a measure at the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly today to combat corruption and international crime. Chairman Campbell introduced the measure during the tenth annual Parliamentary Assembly held in Paris this week. The anti-corruption resolution is co-sponsored by parliamentarians from over a dozen countries including Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Hungary, Romania and Canada. "Widespread corruption endangers the stability and security of societies, undermines democracy and jeopardizes social, political and economic development," Campbell said. "Corruption also facilitates criminal activities such as money laundering, trafficking in human beings, drugs and weapons. It hinders economic development, inflates the costs of doing business, and undermines the legitimacy of the government and public trust." "Corruption among government officials at any level in any country negatively affects the United States when businesses suffer losses at the hands of illicit actions by foreign leaders," Campbell added. "It is incumbent upon parliamentarians from each of the OSCE's 55 Member States to enact and implement legislation to combat corruption at every level." Chairman Campbell is leading a delegation of Members of the United States Congress to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a gathering of over 300 parliamentarians from throughout the 55-member OSCE region. Through his resolution at the Assembly, Chairman Campbell encouraged his European counterparts to introduce legislation similar to the International Anti-Corruption Act of 2001 which he introduced in the United States Senate last month. Under the International Anti-Corruption Act of 2001, countries found to be hostile to American businesses would lose U.S. financial aid. Chairman Campbell's resolution urges the Member States of the OSCE to encourage the development of free and independent media. Campbell's measure also calls on governments to promote financial disclosure by public officials, political parties, and candidates for public office. Furthermore, the measure encourages national parliaments to ensure transparency and openness in the legislative process, including public access to debate and open committee hearings, to establish and enforce parliamentary rules of ethics, ensure effective oversight of government agencies and provide whistle-blower protection. The United States Helsinki Commission by law monitors and encourages progress in implementing provisions of the Helsinki Accords. The Commission, created in 1976, is composed of nine Senators, nine Representatives and one official each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce. Through his anti-corruption resolution, Chairman Campbell is building upon his earlier work in the Parliamentary Assembly to focus attention on efforts to combat international crime and corruption.

  • Helsinki Commission Members React to Milosevic Developments

    WASHINGTON - Members of the United States Helsinki Commission today issued statements on the most recent developments in the case of Slobodan Milosevic. “I am pleased to hear reports that Slobodan Milosevic is being put in the custody of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, located in The Hague,” said Chairman Campbell. “The Helsinki Commission has, from the beginning of the Yugoslav conflict of the 1990s, supported the creation and operation of the Tribunal in response to the war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide associated with that conflict.” “While many factors and players were involved in the former Yugoslavia’s violent demise, without doubt Milosevic was primarily responsible for turning the situation into an ethnic cleansing campaign in which hundreds of thousands were killed, tens of thousands raped or subjected to other forms of torture and millions displaced,” Campbell added. “I hope that Milosevic’s delivery to The Hague will lead to the apprehension and surrender of others indicted by the Tribunal, many known or believed still to be in Serbia,” said Co-Chairman Smith. “This process will give victims the satisfaction of justice served. It will also give the people of Serbia, who have recently learned with revulsion of the atrocities for which the Milosevic regime was responsible, a chance to put the legacy of hate behind them. For tyrants around the world, it will be a deterring example that there is accountability for the massive and criminal violation of human rights.” “The United States Congress can be proud of the role it has played in this ongoing struggle for justice in the Balkans,” said Ranking Member Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD). “Often against the advice of the foreign policy establishment, there has been bipartisan support for creating an international tribunal which would hold those guilty of egregious crimes accountable for their acts, and for ensuring that cooperation with the tribunal remained a central part of U.S. policy toward the region.” “We must keep in mind that several other indicted persons remain at large, including Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic for the Srebrenica massacre and those responsible for the Vukovar massacre,” said Helsinki Commission Member Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD). “They played a direct role in atrocities, and the delivery of Milosovic will hopefully build momentum for their apprehension as well.” Milosevic was indicted in May 1999 on charges of “crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war.”

  • Helsinki Commissioner Announces Anti-Torture Resolution on "International Day in Support of Victims of Torture"

    Washington - United States Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) will introduce a resolution at the July meeting of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly seeking to ban the use of incommunicado detention, which denies detainees contact with the outside world. In addition, the resolution calls on participating States to exclude evidence obtained through the use of torture, or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in courts of law or legal proceedings. "On July 6-10, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly will meet in Paris for its annual meeting. I am introducing a proposal on the prevention of torture that calls for a complete ban, in law and in practice, on incommunicado detention. In too many instances, this practice continues to foster an environment in which torture or other forms of abuse can and do occur. This practice must be ended and the OSCE participating States should commit to this in unequivocal terms." June 26 is the United Nations'International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly consists of legislators from the 55 OSCE participating States. It meets each July and debates and adopts, by majority vote, a declaration addressing all three areas of OSCE activity (military-security, the economic and environmental dimension, and human rights). "Unfortunately, widespread torture remains a serious problem in several OSCE countries. In Turkmenistan, Baptist Minister Shagildy Atakov is being held prisoner and tortured because of his faith. In Uzbekistan, Mamadali Makhmudov, a renowned writer, has been tortured before and after his sentencing to 14 years in prison and opposition activist Elena Urlaeva has been incarcerated in a psychiatric institution, recalling the worst of Soviet-era practices." "In Turkey, as recently as a few weeks ago, women who had been tortured and came forth publicly to denounce these practices and call for reform detained and tortured again for speaking out and criticizing the state. Ironically, those who seek to assist victims of torture in Turkey have in a number of instances become victims of torture themselves. The resolution I have prepared speaks not only to these egregious examples, but many other cases in the region." The resolution also: * condemns the practice of racial or ethnic profiling by police and other law enforcement agencies; * calls on participating States to encourage the development of treatment centers for victims of torture; and * calls on participating States to protect medical personnel for their role in documenting torture and treating torture victims. In 1998, Chairman Smith sponsored the Torture Victims Relief Act. For fiscal year 2000, Congress authorized and appropriated the following funds: * $7.5 million for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to assist treatment programs in the United States; * $7.5 million for the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID) to support foreign treatment centers; and * $3 million as a contribution to the U. N. Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture. The United States Helsinki Commission by law monitors and encourages progress in implementing provisions of the Helsinki Accords. The Commission, created in 1976, is composed of nine Senators, nine Representatives and one official each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce.

  • Helsinki Commission Hearing Examines Downward Spiral in Russia's Human Rights Record

    Washington - The United States Helsinki Commission today held a hearing to examine the current state of human rights in Russia, just over a year after Russian President Vladimir Putin took office. “Our hope is that Russia will overcome the legacy of the past and achieve the freedom the Russian people deserve,” said Helsinki Commission Chairman Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO). “Indications of a downward trend in Russia’s human rights record were noted by several experts at a Commission hearing held in May of last year, and regrettably the situation has not improved since.” Chairman Campbell added, “The discovery of dozens of bodies in a mass grave near the main Russian military base in Chechnya is only the most egregious horror in a long line of horrors being visited upon non-combatants in that region. This does not excuse atrocities committed by Chechen forces, or detract from legitimate concerns about conditions in Chechnya after the first war. The gravity of the violations in Chechnya demand our attention in light of Russia’s international obligations, including her OSCE commitments.” Commission Co-Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) said in prepared remarks, “I am especially concerned about the carnage that continues to take place in Chechnya. The death and destruction continues, taking Chechen and Russian lives and making a peaceful solution appear even less possible.” “I think we all understand that guerrilla warfare can be savage, and there have been documented instances of atrocities committed by Chechen forces,” Smith added. “However, Russia military actions in Chechnya suggest less of a military operation against an armed secessionist force – or an ‘anti-terrorist operation,’ as Moscow phrases it – than a war against an entire people who are its own citizens.” “One of the most disturbing events has been the forceful takeover by individuals connected with the Russian Government of the NTV television network, an independent network that had been critical of the Putin administration,” Campbell added. “The pattern of harassment against the few independent news outlets is quite clear.” Testifying before the Commission today were John Beyrle, Acting Special Advisor to the Secretary for the New Independent States, U.S. Department of State; Dr. Elena Bonner, Chairman, Andrei Sakharov Foundation; Paul Goble, Director of Communications, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty; and Dr. Emil Pain, Galina Starovoitova Fellow on Human Rights and Conflict Resolution of the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies, Woodrow Wilson International Center. Text of opening statements delivered by Commission Members and hearing witnesses are available on the Commission’s web site.

  • Helsinki Commission Chairman Introduces International Anti-Corruption Act

    Washington - United States Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO) has introduced legislation tying U.S. financial assistance to corruption-fighting efforts in countries around the world. The International Anti-Corruption Act of 2001 addresses the growing problem of official and unofficial corruption abroad. “The time has come to stop providing aid as usual to those countries which line up to receive our assistance, only to turn around and fleece U.S. businesses conducting legitimate operations in these countries,” Chairman Campbell said. “Ironically, in some of the biggest recipients of U.S. foreign assistance – countries like Russia and Ukraine – the climate is harmful and outright hostile to American business.” The International Anti-Corruption Act of 2001 would require the State Department to submit a report and the President to certify by March 1 of each year that countries receiving U.S. foreign aid are, in fact, conducive to American businesses and investors. If a country is found to be hostile to American businesses, aid from the United States would be cut off. The certification would be specifically based on whether a country is making progress in, and is committed to, economic reform aimed at eliminating corruption. “Instead of jumping on the bandwagon to pump millions of additional American tax dollars into countries which are hostile to U.S. businesses and investors, we should be working to root out the kinds of bribery and corruption that have an overall chilling effect on much needed foreign investment,” Campbell said. “Left unchecked, such corruption will continue to undermine fledgling democracies worldwide and further impede moves toward a genuine free market economy.” The legislation provides an exception for continued support in cases where discontinued U.S. assistance would jeopardize humanitarian assistance or the national interests of the United States. In 1999, Campbell launched an anti-corruption initiative to raise the visibility of this growing problem in the region covered by the 55-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The OSCE has since committed to step up efforts to combat corruption and promote the rule of law. Chairman Campbell recently urged Secretary of State Colin Powell to build upon these efforts within the framework of the OSCE. The Helsinki Commission, created by Congress in 1976, consists of nine members from the United States Senate, nine members from the U.S. House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce.

  • Status of Human Rights in Russia Focus of Helsinki Commission Hearing

    Washington - The United States Helsinki Commission will conduct a hearing to assess the state of human rights and civil liberties in Russia since President Vladimir Putin took office just over one year ago. The hearing will be held in advance of the first summit scheduled for President Putin and President George W. Bush. Troubling Trends: Human Rights in Russia Tuesday, June 5, 2001 9:30 - 11:30 AM 334 Cannon House Office Building Scheduled to testify: Dr. Elena Bonner, Chairman, Andrei Sakharov Foundation Paul Goble, Director of Communications, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty Dr. Emil Pain, Galina Starovoitova Fellow on Human Rights and Conflict Resolution of the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies, Woodrow Wilson International Center John Beyrle, Acting Special Advisor to the Secretary for the New Independent States, US Department of State The fate of civil liberties and human rights in Russia have been increasingly in question since President Vladimir Putin took office in January 2000. Recent human rights concerns in Russia include the brutal and continuing war in Chechnya, the takeover of the NTV television network and general pressures on the media, and apparent attempts by Russian security services to intimidate scientists and environmental activists. In the latest Freedom House assessment of the state of freedom in the world, Russia was rated “partially free.” But freedom in Russia has declined since the re-establishment of Russia’s independence in 1991, according to the Freedom House rating. President Bush will meet with President Putin in Slovenia on June 16 to discuss missile defense and human rights issues. In preparations for the summit, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said he raised concerns with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov regarding the situation in Chechnya. Ivanov has purportedly promised that Russia would allow an assistance group from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to return to the region.

  • Helsinki Commission Leaders Denounce Slovak Passport Plan

    Washington - United States Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) today criticized reports that Slovak Government officials are considering a plan to deny passports to “citizens suspected of trying to emigrate.” “I am extremely disappointed by this move,” said Smith. “Slovakia is a country that has shown enormous human rights progress since the election of a pro-democracy coalition in 1998. But the passport restrictions we’re reading about today would deny some Slovak citizens the right to leave and return to their country, one of the most fundamental rights recognized in the Helsinki process.” Ranking Commission Member Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD) also voiced his concern. “Many Central European leaders deny that Roma face discrimination and claim that Romani asylum seekers are merely ‘economic migrants,’” Hoyer said. “Some leaders have even alleged that Romani asylum seekers are out to discredit their governments – or are even part of a transnational conspiracy being orchestrated from abroad. These countries would be better served if their governments stopped blaming others and started looking at the unremedied problems Roma face at home.” Since 1999, thousands of Slovak Roma have sought asylum in Western countries such as the United Kingdom, Finland, and Belgium. Most of these Slovak applicants were not granted asylum, although some were. Similarly, more than 5,000 Hungarian citizens (presumed to be members of the Romani minority) have sought asylum in Canada since 1998. Approximately 30 percent of the Hungarians who have completed the application process have been found by the Canadian Government to have a well-founded fear of persecution and had their requests for asylum granted. Roma from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Romania, and Poland have also sought asylum in Canada and other Western countries. In an effort to reduce the number of asylum seekers from Slovakia, Belgium recently threatened to re-introduce visa requirements for that country. Slovak Government officials recognize that most asylum seekers from their country are Romani, and it is understood that the latest Slovak proposal would be directed against the Romani minority. “Roma from Slovakia, like those from other Central European countries, have responded to the discrimination and abuse they face by leaving their countries in significant numbers. In an effort to preempt countries like Belgium from re-instating visa requirements, Slovak officials are poised to impose unwarranted restrictions on the right to freedom of movement of Slovak Roma. Not only are such restrictions a violation of OSCE commitments, this short-sighted policy would contribute to a vicious cycle of intolerance and discrimination,” said Smith.

  • Senate & House Leaders Appoint Full Slate of Commission Members

    Washington - The United States Congress has filled its mandated slate of Members to the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, commonly called the Helsinki Commission with its origin stemming from the agreement to the 1975 Helsinki Final Act. The Senate Republican leadership has appointed Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO) as Chairman of the Commission for the 107th Congress, a position which rotates between the House and Senate with each new Congress. House of Representatives Republican leaders appointed Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) as Co-Chairman of the Commission. The appointment comes after Smith completed a two-year term as Chairman in the 106th Congress. Chairman Campbell, the only Native American in the U.S. Senate and a former Deputy Sheriff, acknowledged the appointment as Commission Chairman as an opportunity to encourage stability throughout Europe’s emerging democracies. “Combating corruption and protecting the rights of minorities will certainly be on my list of priorities as Chairman of the Helsinki Commission,” Campbell said. “I look forward to building upon the Commission’s tradition of bipartisan cooperation in speaking out on behalf of individuals being denied their fundamental freedoms and basic human rights,” said Chairman Campbell. Instrumental in raising the growing problem of corruption and international crime within the framework of the 55-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Campbell plans to build upon this initiative during his chairmanship. Co-Chairman Smith expressed gratitude for the opportunity to continue his leadership in monitoring human rights developments among the now 55 OSCE countries. “I am grateful that the House leadership has entrusted me with the task of leading the Helsinki Commission in its efforts to improve human rights throughout Europe,” Smith said. “When we see abuses like the car-bomb murder of Rosemary Nelson, a Northern Ireland human rights attorney and advocate, it is humbling to discover the price people pay for the sake of human dignity.” The Helsinki Commission, created by Congress in 1976, consists of nine members from the United States Senate, nine members from the U.S. House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce. The executive branch Commissioners are expected to be appointed in the near future. U.S. House of Representatives: Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey, Co-Chairman Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Joseph R. Pitts, Pennsylvania Zach Wamp, Tennessee Robert B. Aderholt, Alabama Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Benjamin L. Cardin, Maryland Louise McIntosh Slaughter, New York Alcee L. Hastings, Florida U.S. Senate: Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Colorado, Chairman Kay Bailey Hutchison, Texas Sam Brownback, Kansas Gordon H. Smith, Oregon George V. Voinovich, Ohio Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Bob Graham, Florida Russell D. Feingold, Wisconsin Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York The Commission convenes public hearings and briefings with expert witnesses on OSCE-related issues; issues public reports concerning implementation of OSCE commitments in participating States; publishes periodic CSCE Digest articles with up-to-date information on OSCE developments and Commission activities; and organizes official delegations to participating States and OSCE meetings to address and assess democratic, economic, and human rights developments firsthand. The Commission contributes to the formulation of U.S. policy on the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and takes part in its execution, including through Member and staff participation on U.S. Delegations to OSCE meetings and in certain OSCE bodies. Members of the Commission have regular contact with parliamentarians, government officials, NGOs, and private individuals from other OSCE participating States.

  • Ukraine Human Rights & Democracy Focus of Helsinki Commission Hearing

    Washington - The United States Helsinki Commission held a hearing today examining the status of human rights and democracy in Ukraine and the role of the United States in assisting Ukraine’s development as an independent, market-oriented democracy in the face of the current political crisis. “Pervasive, high level corruption, the controversial conduct by authorities in the Gongadze investigation and ongoing human rights problems are raising legitimate questions about Ukraine’s commitment to democracy, human rights and the rule of law,” said Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO). “I am especially troubled by the level of corruption in Ukraine, which has had such a debilitating impact on the people and which discourages valuable foreign investment, something that Ukraine badly needs to assist in its economic recovery. Left to fester, corruption will undermine Ukraine’s fledgling democracy and independence.” “Ukraine’s promise for a better future has not yet been met,” said Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ). “We know this all too well from the tape scandal, alleging the involvement of top officials in malfeasance. We know this from the Ukrainian authorities’ sometimes heavy-handed responses to the independent media and opposition. More recently, this promise for a better future was thwarted by forces reluctant to engage in the kinds of reforms that will truly break the ties with a gloomy, communist past. It was these forces who voted – ironically, on the fifteenth anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster – to dismiss popular reform-minded Prime Minister Yushchenko.” “Given the importance of our relationship with Ukraine – and let there be no doubt that it is a very important relationship – the Commission has become increasingly concerned about the direction in which Ukraine appears to be heading,” Chairman Campbell added. “Despite the forces hostile to reform, it is clear that the United States must not abandon Ukraine,” said Co-Chairman Smith. “Whether through political support or through concrete assistance to strengthen democracy, it is incumbent upon us to work with the Ukrainian people so that the promise for a better future for which so many sacrifices were made will – at long last – become a reality.” “Almost a decade after achieving its centuries-old dream of independence, Ukraine is at a crossroads with respect to its democratic development as well as with its geopolitical orientation,” concluded Chairman Campbell. “Is Ukraine acting in a manner consistent with its declared desire to integrate with Europe or is it moving away from a pro-European orientation? And what are the consequences for Ukraine if it moves away from the West?” Opening statements by Commissioners and witnesses are available on the Helsinki Commission web site.

  • Human Rights, Democracy in Ukraine Focus of Helsinki Commission Hearing

    WASHINGTON - The United States Helsinki Commission will conduct a hearing to examine the current status of human rights and democracy in Ukraine and the role of the United States in assisting Ukraine’s development as an independent, market-oriented democracy in the face of the current political crisis. “Ukraine at the Crossroads: Ten Years After Independence” Wednesday, May 2, 2001 9:30 - 11:30 AM 334 Cannon House Office Building Scheduled to testify: Yevhen Marchuk, Chairman of the National Security and Defense Council and former Prime Minister of Ukraine Jon Purnell, Deputy to the Acting Special Advisor to the Secretary of State for the New Independent States Adrian Karatnyky, President, Freedom House, author of “Meltdown in Ukraine,” current issue of Foreign Affairs Ariel Cohen, Ph.D., Research Fellow, Russian and Eurasian Studies, The Heritage Foundation Secretly recorded audio tapes revealed in November have seemingly implicated Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma in the case of missing investigative journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, presumed dead. These developments have heightened concerns about Ukraine’s commitment to the consolidation of human rights, democracy and the rule of law against the backdrop of pervasive corruption and a resistance to political and economic reforms. The United States earlier this month granted political asylum to one of Kuchma’s body guards Mykola Melnychenko, who produced the tapes. The United States also granted asylum to Gongadze’s wife, Myroslava, and their twin daughters.

  • Helsinki Commission Members Urge Movement on Czech-American Property Restitution

    WASHINGTON - Members of the United States Helsinki Commission have written to the Deputy Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, Pavel Rychetský, urging his government to remedy discrimination against American citizens in the Czech Republic’s property restitution and compensation laws. Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), Ranking Member Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD), and Commissioners Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) and Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-OH) joined together, calling on the Czech Government to accommodate the claims of Czech-Americans whose properties were stolen from them and their families and to provide them with a remedy for their losses on an equal basis with other Czechs who have received a remedy under Czech laws. Dozens of individuals have contacted the Helsinki Commission for support after their claims for property restitution were denied by the Czech Government or courts due to their lack of Czech citizenship. In some cases, the property of Czech-Americans has been put up for sale by the government while the original owners sought to reclaim their assets. This issue was raised with Czech officials during the debate over NATO enlargement. At that time (1997), leading members of the Czech Senate indicated that the law would be changed to enable Czech-Americans to make claims. Under laws enacted in 1991 and 1994, Czechoslovakia (later the Czech Republic) initiated a program to return, or compensate for, land and dwelling places confiscated by the Nazis or the communists. The laws limited restitution or compensation to applicants who had Czech citizenship at the time they applied for restitution or compensation. Approximately 30,000 Czechoslovak emigrés who sought refuge in the United States during and after World War II automatically lost their Czechoslovak citizenship under a 1928 U.S.-Czechoslovak Treaty of Naturalization when the emigrés became U.S. citizens. Following a relevant United States Supreme Court ruling, the treaty became unenforceable in the U.S. in the 1960s. Czechoslovakia did not have a similar treaty of naturalization with any country other than the United States. As a result, naturalized citizens of countries other than the United States were able to maintain their dual citizenship and thereby satisfy the citizenship requirement in the Czech property restitution law. The text of the letter follows: March 26, 2001 H.E. Pavel Rychetský Deputy Prime Minister of the Czech Republic Úøad vlády ÈR Nábøeži Edvarda Beneše 4 Praha 1 PSÈ 118 01 Czech Republic Dear Mr. Deputy Prime Minister: We write to express our ongoing concern about discrimination against American citizens in the Czech Republic’s property restitution and compensation laws. As you may know, property restitution is an issue of long-standing concern to many Members of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe. The Commission has been contacted by dozens of individuals who are unable to receive restitution or compensation for expropriated property because of their citizenship. Our letter is prompted by news that, in one such case, the property administration office in Prague recently initiated the sale of one quarter of an apartment house—house no. 2337, and parcel of land no. 3477, located in Smichov, Graficka 30, Praha 5—which is claimed by two American citizens, Ota and Kamil Gschwind. We urge your government to extend the filing deadlines in laws no. 87/1991 and no. 116/1994 so that Czech-Americans, including Messrs. Gschwind, may finally have their property restitution claims adjudicated and equitably resolved. The predicament faced by Ota and Kamil Gschwind is indicative of the situation faced by many Czech-Americans. It is our understanding that legal ownership of this apartment house was eligible under Czech law for return to its rightful owners, Ota and Kamil Gschwind, but for the fact that they are naturalized American citizens who were not eligible to reclaim their Czech citizenship in time to apply for restitution or compensation. The discriminatory effect of this citizenship requirement could not be more clear. Messrs. Gschwind wish to recover an interest in property that their mother inherited from her father. Their mother is not alive to reclaim possession of the property because her life was brutally ended by the Nazis. Her sons are prohibited from receiving restitution solely because they chose the United States as their refuge from communism and became American citizens, thereby losing their Czechoslovak citizenship by operation of the 1928 Czechoslovak-U.S. Treaty on Naturalization. Had they emigrated to any country other than the United States they would not have lost their Czechoslovak citizenship and, thus, would not have been excluded from your country’s property restitution program. Mr. Minister, the post-communist Czech Government could not hope to make redress for all of the injustices committed prior to 1990. Nonetheless, having recognized the injustice done to Czechoslovak citizens through property expropriations during the periods 1941-1945 and 1948-1990, and having recognized the moral compulsion to remedy that injustice through restitution or compensation, it is then wholly arbitrary and discriminatory to deny a remedy only to those who became citizens of the United States. In the fall of 1997, a multi-party delegation of Czech Senators visiting Washington indicated that the barriers to property restitution and compensation for Czech-Americans would be resolved through a two-step process. First, legislation would be passed to allow Czech-Americans to regain their Czech citizenship. Second, legislation would be passed to extend the claims filing deadlines established in laws no. 87/1991 and no. 116/1994. Accordingly, we were encouraged to learn of the adoption of new citizenship provisions in 1999 that ended the ban on dual citizenship for Czech-Americans. That development fostered our hope that your Cabinet would introduce legislation to extend the claims filing deadlines; regrettably, this second step has yet to be initiated. We respectfully request your assistance to prevent the Property Administration Branch of the Regional Office of Prague District No. 5 from selling the above-referenced apartment house or taking any other action prejudicial to Messrs. Gschwind’s claim to the property. Additionally, we request that the filing period for property claims be reopened in order to accommodate the claims of Messrs. Gschwind and other Czech-Americans whose properties were stolen from them and their families and to provide them with a remedy for their losses on an equal basis with other Czechs who have received a remedy under Czech laws. Sincerely, STENY H. HOYER, M.C. Ranking Member BENJAMIN L. CARDIN, M.C. Commissioner CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH, M.C. Co-Chairman GEORGE V. VOINOVICH, U.S.S. Commissioner

  • Helsinki Commission Hearing Examines Recent Developments in and around Kosovo

    WASHINGTON - The United States Helsinki Commission will convene a hearing to examine the recent developments in and around Kosovo. Recent Developments in and around Kosovo Thursday, March 29, 2001 2:00 – 4:00 PM 485 Russell Senate Office Building Since 1999, the international community has been responsible for keeping the peace in Kosovo while seeking to create and develop civilian institutions which would enable Kosovo to function autonomously and democratically, whatever its final status may be. This hearing will focus on the most recent developments in such areas as human rights, including minority rights; the results of last year’s local elections and prospects for Kosovo elections this year; the development of a local police force; and the role of KFOR peacekeepers and other organizations in maintaining security and civil order. The witness panel will be asked to address the relationship between Kosovo and the recent escalation of violence in neighboring regions of southern Serbia and Macedonia, as well as the United States and international community’s response to this violence. Scheduled to testify: General Joseph W. Ralston (USAF), Supreme Allied Commander Europe (NATO) and Commander-in-Chief, United States European Command Ambassador James W. Pardew, Jr., Principal Deputy Special Advisor for Kosovo and Dayton Implementation Ambassador Daan W. Everts, Head of Mission, OSCE Mission in Kosovo The United States Helsinki Commission is an independent Federal Government agency charged with monitoring and encouraging compliance with the Helsinki Final Act and other commitments of the 55 countries participating in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The Commission, created in 1976, is comprised of nine Senators, nine Representatives and one senior official each from the Departments of State, Commerce and Defense.

  • Serbia After Milosevic: A Progress Report

    Tuesday, March 6, 2001 2:00 p.m to 4:00 p.m. Room SDG-11(Ground Floor) Dirksen Senate Office Building Open to Members, Congressional staff, Press and the Public Scheduled to speak: Milan Protic, Yugoslav Ambassador to the United States Nina Bang-Jensen, Executive Director, Coalition for International Justice Sonja Biserko, Chair, Serbian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights James M. Lyon, Political and Economic Analyst, International Crisis Group Daniel P. Serwer, Director of the Balkans Initiative, United States Institute for Peace Background: The October 2000 ouster of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and the December 2000 Serbian elections which solidified the position of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia have created conditions for bolstering democratic development, enhancing economic recovery, and maintaining long-term stability in Serbia and southeastern Europe as a whole. After a decade of conflict, violence and repression, this new situation has been universally welcomed. At the same time, many remain concerned about the commitment of the new Yugoslav President, Vojislav Kostunica, and other officials in the Yugoslav and Serbian Governments to ethnic tolerance, the rule of law and cooperation with the international community in reversing all the damage done by Milosevic over the years. This Helsinki Commission briefing will assess the progress made in the five months since democratic forces came to power in Serbia. The briefing will focus in particular on Yugoslav cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, Belgrade’s evolving stance toward Bosnia and other neighbors, and the effect of internal reform measures in correcting Milosevic abuses, including the continued imprisonment of hundreds of Kosovar Albanians in Serbia. These issues are particularly relevant in light of congressionally imposed conditionality on U.S. assistance to Serbia after March 31.

  • Helsinki Commission Chairman Urges Ukraine to Confront Legacy of Corruption

    Washington - United States Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO) today expressed concern about the current political crisis in Ukraine, sparked by revelations on secretly recorded tapes implicating the involvement of President Kuchma and high government officials in the case of murdered journalist Georgiy Gongadze. Chairman Campbell met today with the former Speaker of the Ukrainian parliament, Oleksander Moroz, who first released the tapes to the Rada on November 28, 2000. “Given the importance of our relationship with Ukraine, I am extremely concerned about the direction in which Ukraine may be heading,” Campbell said. “Reports of pervasive, high level corruption, the controversial conduct of the government in the investigation of the Gongadze case and a pattern of harassment of media are raising legitimate questions regarding Ukraine’s commitment to democracy, human rights and the rule of law.” “I am especially troubled about rampant corruption in Ukraine at all levels, which has had such a debilitating impact on ordinary people and discourages valuable foreign investment,” Campbell added. “The political leadership of Ukraine needs to undertake concentrated efforts to root out corruption, which, if allowed to fester further, could undermine Ukraine’s democratic development as an independent state.” The State Department Annual Human Rights Country Report on Ukraine released earlier this week cites a mixed human rights record and notes the failure to curb institutional corruption and abuse in the Ukrainian Government. Chairman Campbell expressed the hope that the Ukrainian Government would resolve the Gongadze investigation in a serious, transparent manner that might restore confidence in its credibility. Campbell also urged the Ukranian Government to have a genuine dialogue with the opposition and encouraged the use of constitutional, democratic means to resolve the current crisis in a manner consistent with Ukraine’s OSCE commitments, including the right to peaceful protest. The Helsinki Commission Chairman recalled President Bush’s remarks in Tuesday’s Address to Congress, where the President stated that: “Nations making progress toward freedom will find America is their friend.” “A decade after independence, Ukraine’s progress has stalled,” Campbell observed. “For freedom to flourish, Ukrainians will have to overcome the legacy of corruption that continues to plague their nation and hold them back from reaching their potential.”

  • Smith Decries Turkmen Torture of Baptist Minister Atakov

    WASHINGTON - United States Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) today decried the cruel and unjust treatment of a Baptist minister in Turkmenistan, who reportedly is being tortured in prison. “It sickens me to learn of the persecution of Baptist minister Shagildy Atakov, who, we believe, is being held prisoner and tortured because of his faith,” Smith said. “According to the most recent information we have, Atakov told his wife he does not expect to survive his mistreatment.” “I urge the international diplomatic community to join me in calling for his immediate release,” Smith continued. “And I pray that Turkmenistan’s President Saparmurat Niyazov will release Reverend Atakov immediately and unconditionally.” The Reverend Shagildy Atakov was arrested on December 18, 1998 at his home in Turkmenbashi and charged with “fraud.” On March 19, 1999, Atakov was fined $12,000 and sentenced to two years in prison. The average monthly wage in Turkmenistan is about $30. Despite his conviction for an allegedly criminal offense, government officials have reportedly pressured Atakov and his family members to renounce their religious faith. Reverend Atakov has been subjected to brutal beatings and torture by prison officials. After Atakov’s second trial, set for July 21, 1999, was postponed because he had been too weakened by severe beatings, prosecutors increased his prison sentence by an additional two years and raised his fine by another $12,000. In November 1999, Atakov was sent to a punishment cell for 15 days at Seydy labor camp. In March 2000, he was sent to a punishment cell for one month. Atakov suffered symptoms of a heart attack last December, after which he was again sent to a punishment cell and severely beaten. The minister was reportedly so severely beaten during one round of torture that he was temporarily blinded. Today, Atakov’s life is in severe danger. The latest reports indicate that he told his wife on her recent visit that he does not expect to survive his abuse. Amnesty International issued an urgent alert on Monday, urging Atakov’s release. In numerous letters to President Niyazov, Smith has urged Atakov’s release. Turkmenistan’s Government routinely responds that the minister committed “defrauding actions toward the citizens of Turkmenistan and The Russian Federation by illegally possessing their properties and money,” and that his “conviction...has nothing to [do] with his religious beliefs.” However, Turkmenistan is the most repressive country in the former USSR. Under President Niyazov’s iron-handed rule, Turkmenistan, as an OSCE participating State since 1992, remains a one-party police state which observes no human rights commitments. In the last few years, the government has noticeably stepped up harassment of religious communities and persecution of believers. In November1999, authorities demolished a Seventh-Day Adventist Church in the capital city, Ashgabat, after having destroyed a Hare Krishna temple. In January, two political prisoners were amnestied, after recanting on television and praising President Niyazov.

  • Geoana Discusses OSCE Priorities with Helsinki Commission Leaders

    WASHINGTON - Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana assured United States Helsinki Commission Chairman Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO) that, as the newly appointed Chairman-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), he will make fighting corruption a top priority. Minister Geoana met with Chairman Campbell at the United States Capitol along with Commission Co-Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ). Commission Ranking Member Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD) and Commissioner Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) also took part in the meeting. As a former Deputy Sheriff, Chairman Campbell applauded Minister Geoana’s commitment to combating corruption among the OSCE participating States and urged Romania to lead by example in that regard. Chairman Campbell noted his heritage as an Native American and how it leads to a personal understanding of the discrimination faced by Roma. Romania will host a conference on Roma this year in Bucharest. Co-Chairman Smith said that corruption is the “Achilles heel” of emerging democracies and encouraged Romanians to maintain pressure against corrupt individuals who stand in the way of democratic reform. Mr. Smith also urged the Romanian Foreign Minister to be straightforward against the horrific practice of human trafficking – slavery of the 21st Century. Commissioners Hoyer and Cardin both reiterated their support for the International War Crimes Tribunal as one of the most effective ways to stop the cycle of violence and retribution which has devastated Southeastern Europe. The United States Helsinki Commission by law monitors and encourages progress in implementing provisions of the Helsinki Accords. The Commission, created in 1976, is composed of nine Senators, nine Representatives and one official each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce.

  • Helsinki Commission Chairman Calls on Cuba to Release Czech Citizens

    WASHINGTON - United States Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) today called on the Cuban regime to release two Czech citizens who were reportedly arrested after they met with Cuban democracy and human rights activists. "On January 12, two Czech citizens - one of whom is a member of the Czech parliament - were arrested in Cuba," Chairman Smith said. "They are being held incommunicado, denied access to Czech consular officials and without being informed of the charges against them. Cuban officials have now announced they plan to try the men, Ivan Pilip and Jan Bubenik, before a 'revolutionary tribunal.'" "I don't know whether this is payback for the Czech Government's leadership in spearheading a U.N. Human Rights Commission resolution last year regarding human rights concerns in Cuba, or whether this is simply part of the repression of Cuba's own citizens - denying them the right of freedom of association and the right to know and act upon their human rights," Smith continued. "What is clear is that the human rights of these two Czech citizens are being violated and that the charges against them are nonsense." "Keeping them in prison serves no purpose: it will not deflect scrutiny of Cuba's deplorable human rights record at the forthcoming March meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Commission nor will it stop Cubans from dreaming of freedom. I urge Cuban authorities to immediately release Ivan Pilip and Jan Bubenik," said Chairman Smith.

  • Helsinki Commission Welcomes Efforts to Locate U.S. Aid Worker Missing in Chechnya

    WASHINGTON - United States Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), today welcomed reports that both sides in the Chechen conflict have pledged to try to secure the release of U.S. citizen and aid worker Kenneth Gluck, who was reportedly kidnaped in Russian-controlled Chechnya on January 9 while working with the international aid organization Doctors Without Borders. Gluck was apparently kidnaped by masked gunmen near the village of Stary Atagy. As a result of the kidnaping, Doctors Without Borders has announced that it is temporarily suspending operations in Chechnya. “Kenneth Gluck was involved in a noble humanitarian program to provide assistance to people in Chechnya who have been caught in the maelstrom of a bloody conflict,” Chairman Smith said. “This latest action against a foreign aid worker will only increase the suffering of innocent victims. It is commendable that authorities on both sides of the political conflict have pledged to seek freedom for Kenneth Gluck.” “All sides in the conflict have a stake in reducing the lawlessness that has plagued Chechnya,” said Commission Ranking Member Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md). “The release of Kenneth Gluck is essential if there is to be any end to the plague of violence and inhumanity that has descended upon Chechnya,” said Hoyer. As a result of the renewed conflict in Chechnya, Doctors Without Borders began working with displaced persons in Ingushetia in 1999, and gained access to Chechnya in 2000. Gluck, a native of New York, is the director of the Doctors Without Borders relief programs in Chechnya. He previously worked on humanitarian operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Tajikistan and Colombia. In 1999, Doctors Without Borders was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its international humanitarian work.

  • United States Helsinki Commission Announces New and Improved Internet Web Site

    WASHINGTON - The United States Helsinki Commission launched a newly updated Internet web site today allowing for greater ease in searching the Commission’s vast array of documents and information. The new Helsinki Commission web site uses some of the latest information technology making research easier and more thorough. “Through the new Commission web site, we have increased our value to the public with some of the latest advances in technology,” said Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ). “The Commission continues to be a unique and valuable source of information regarding the ‘Helsinki process’ which was born out of the Final Act of the Helsinki Accords signed in 1975. Today, we can deliver information more timely and more effectively than ever before.” Chairman Smith said the new Internet site is an invaluable research tool for students, academics, government officials and others interested in the issues pertaining to the Commission’s work in promoting human rights, democracy and the rule of law in the 55 participating States of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). “Many of the design features were developed in response to requests from practitioners, government officials, human rights leaders and activists in the democracy field seeking Commission materials,” Co-Chairman Campbell said. “We're pleased to have designed this new site to assist researchers, policy makers, legislators and others in their quest for information about the Commission and its mission over the past 25 years. The Helsinki Commission, through this re-designed web site, has increased its value to Non-Governmental Organizations and governmental officials involved in promoting the Helsinki Final Act.” The Commission’s web site provides instant access to the agency’s latest press releases and reports on recent hearings and briefings in addition to an electronic subscription service. Using the Commission’s subscription page, readers with e-mail may choose to receive press releases, notices, reports and other documents on issues in which they are most interested. “I’m confident that visitors will find the Helsinki Commission’s Internet home more user-friendly, easier to navigate and more conducive to research demands,” said Commission Ranking Member Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD). “From press releases to hearing transcripts and briefing reports, the new web site design allows for more efficient delivery of information.” Through the wonders of today’s Internet, text material on the Helsinki Commission’s web site can be translated into German, Spanish, French and Italian through an unofficial, independent translation service.

  • Yugoslav Foreign Minister Assures Chairman Smith of Improved Human Rights

    WASHINGTON - Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic assured United States Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) today that his government is committed to improving human rights conditions and building democratic institutions in the wake of fallen ruler Slobodan Milosevic and his decade-long reign of terror. “I am encouraged by Mr. Svilanovic’s assurances and remain hopeful,” Chairman Smith said after his meeting on Friday. Smith raised a number of human rights issues, including the release of Kosovar Albanians incarcerated in Serbian prisons, turning over persons indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague for war crimes and crimes against humanity, and bringing those responsible for crimes internally, like the assassination of journalist Slavko Curuvija, to justice. Foreign Minister Svilanovic said his government, under the leadership of newly elected President Vojislav Kostunica, is committed to restoring basic human rights and the rule of law. The Foreign Minister responded that a long-awaited amnesty law would soon be adopted and bring the issue of imprisoned Kosovar Albanians to an end. He acknowledged that all countries must respect international obligations, including participation with The Hague Tribunal created to prosecute those responsible for crimes associated with the former Yugoslavia's violent demise. He suggested steps which would inevitably lead to proceedings against those indicted. Smith responded that, in addition to Milosevic, those responsible for what were, undeniably, major crimes in Vukovar, Croatia, in 1991 and Srebrenica, Bosnia, and known to reside in Yugoslavia must be surrendered. He provided the Foreign Minister with copies of the indictments of these individuals. Mr. Svilanovic said his government is weighing a number of options by either prosecuting indictees on Yugoslav soil or sending them to The Hague. The Foreign Minister called U.S. assistance this year respectable and very helpful, noting that conditionality on this assistance comes into effect beginning April 1. Mr. Smith noted his long-time efforts in the Congress for increased aid to a democratic Serbia and Montenegro, the two constituent republics of Yugoslavia, arguing that this assistance could serve as a bridge until the country can get back on its feet economically. Presently, the country is facing major problems, including power shortages. Combating corruption and the links between political elites and organized crime were also discussed. Svilanovic told Smith that the people want to improve their economic situation but are even more demanding that those who became rich at their expense be put behind bars. Smith expressed concern about continued regional instability, to which Foreign Minister Svilanovic pledged Yugoslavia's support for Bosnia's territorial integrity and desire to establish relations with Albania. On Montenegro, the Foreign Minister called for a truly democratic and constitutional process for addressing differences, which would likely lead to a more decentralized federation rather than a break-up. Svilanovic indicated that Kosovar moves towards independence would threaten stability.

  • Chairman Smith Decries Intimidation Tactics Against Ukrainian Journalists

    WASHINGTON - United States Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) today renewed his concern about recent apparent attempts by Ukrainian police to intimidate media looking into allegations linking Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and top aides to the disappearance of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. “The media must be allowed to report and comment without fear of duress, even if their reports allege improprieties by high-ranking officials or are critical of the government response to these allegations,” said Chairman Smith. “Freedom of the media is a fundamental element of any democracy. Attempts to intimidate the media for publishing or broadcasting criticism of the government are contrary to Ukraine’s international commitments regarding freedom of the media, including its OSCE commitments.” In another of the country’s media intimidation cases, a Ukrainian Security Service officer reportedly threatened the head of Radio Liberty’s Ukrainian Service based in Prague with the termination of its activities in Ukraine if Radio Liberty continued to “one-sidedly” cover developments in the Gongadze case. The Ukrainian State Tax Administration police last week raided the offices of the Eastern Economist and threatened officials with closure after the weekly publication recently ran an editorial critical of the government’s lack of effectiveness in dealing with the growing scandal surrounding the Gongadze case. Chairman Smith urged the Ukrainian Government to undertake a speedy, serious, open and transparent investigation into the remains believed to be those of Gongadze. Smith also expressed hope that the Ukrainian parliament would continue its efforts to seriously examine allegations concerning official involvement in Gongadze’s disappearance, and do so without hindrance. “It is in Ukraine’s best interest to resolve this grave matter in a timely and just manner before the case further tarnishes the government’s credibility in dealing with fundamental human rights,” said Chairman Smith. On September 16, Ukrainian investigative journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, editor of an Internet newspaper critical of official, high-level corruption in Ukraine, disappeared. In early November, a body believed to be Gongadze’s was found outside Kyiv. On November 28, Oleksander Moroz, leader of the opposition Socialist Party, made public sensational tape recordings purportedly of President Kuchma and two top aides suggesting how they could deal with Gongadze. Moroz received the tapes from an officer of the Ukrainian Security Service who is now in hiding in Western Europe. The United States Helsinki Commission, an independent federal agency, by law monitors and encourages progress in implementing provisions of the Helsinki Accords. The Commission, created in 1976, is composed of nine Senators, nine Representatives and one official each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce.

  • Helsinki Commision Chairman's Statement on Gusinsky Release

    WASHINGTON - Commission on Cooperation in Europe (the Helsinki Commission) Chairman Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) issued the following statement following the release of Russian television executive Vladimir Gusinsky: “I am thankful that Mr. Gusinsky has been released, but President Vladimir Putin’s police still have some explaining to do.” “We will continue to monitor this situation very carefully. The fact of the matter is that the Russian Government is attempting to muzzle the independent media and Mr. Gusinsky’s arrest is strong evidence of that.”

  • Chairman Smith Urges Clinton to Support Rule of Law Against Indicted War Criminal Slobodan Milosevic

    WASHINGTON - United States Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) has urged President Bill Clinton to remain steadfast in his commitment to secure the surrender of Slobodan Milosevic to The Hague and ensure that all indicted war criminals are held accountable for their atrocities against the people of the former Republic of Yugoslavia. In a letter to President Clinton on Thursday, Chairman Smith said, “In light of developments in Belgrade and elsewhere in Serbia, there have been increasing calls for giving Milosevic ‘immunity’ or some other form of protection from prosecution. I strongly oppose any effort to give Milosevic amnesty, immunity or asylum.” “As Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, I fully support your statements attesting to the validity of the international indictment of Slobodan Milosevic. I agree that Milosevic, as a result, must go to The Hague,” Chairman Smith wrote. “I hope, Mr. President, that you will remain resolute in your support for the Tribunal, and will not seek any accommodation of Milosevic in the belief that it will serve the interests of the United States, the people of Serbia, or Milosevic’s millions of victims,” Chairman Smith added. “First, as a matter of international law, the indictment is clearly legitimate and only the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) can revoke or modify the indictment,” Chairman Smith wrote. “Second, those cooperating with the Tribunal, and Croatia in particular, cannot be held to a higher standard on this issue.” “Croatia’s new leadership has gone far, despite some political opposition, to deliver indicted persons to the Tribunal, to acknowledge Croatia’s role in Yugoslavia’s violent demise, and to prosecute in Croatian courts those responsible for criminal acts,” Smith said. “Yet, all those indicted for the mass killings in Vukovar, Croatia, remain free in Serbia. Croatia and other victims of aggression deserve to see not only these people surrendered to The Hague, but Slobodan Milosevic, the mastermind of the conflict, as well.” “Third, there is absolutely no evidence that Milosevic would have, or ever will, relinquish power in return for protection from prosecution,” Smith said. “His nature is to maintain and perpetuate power, regardless of any indictment, and he will flee only if he sees he has lost the choice of staying in power, even if the indictment remains in effect.” “Fourth, any manipulation of the indictment for political reasons undermines the rule of law at the international level and brings into question all that ICTY has done in recent years. This would be a travesty in that, if anything has been learned from a decade of conflict in the former Yugoslavia, it is that the international community must hold accountable those instigating and orchestrating conflict against innocent civilian populations,” Smith concluded. The United States Helsinki Commission is an independent agency of the United States Government charged with monitoring and encouraging compliance with the Helsinki Final Act and other commitments of the countries participating in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The former Yugoslavia was suspended from OSCE participation in 1992. The Commission, created in 1976, is comprised of nine Senators, nine Representatives and one official each from the Departments of State, Commerce and Defense.

  • Helsinki Commission Members Call on Russia to Renew Search for Missing Holocaust Hero

    WASHINGTON – United States Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), Ranking Member Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD) and other Members are calling on Russian officials to renew the search for Raoul Wallenberg, a missing Holocaust hero who was granted honorary American citizenship 19 years ago on October 5, 1981. Wallenberg risked his life to save thousands of Jews targeted for extermination. “In 1944, Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg – with backing from the U.S. War Refugee Board – went to Budapest, armed with nothing more than the courage of his convictions,” Chairman Smith said. “There, he outwitted Nazi and Iron Guards officials, obtaining the release of tens of thousands of Jews bound for Hitler’s death camps.” “It was an extraordinary feat of heroism and he is credited with saving as many as 100,000 Hungarian Jews from deportation and death,” Smith continued. “Tragically and inexplicably, Mr. Wallenberg was arrested by Soviet forces on January 17, 1945. To this day, his fate remains shrouded in mystery.” Rep. Hoyer added his sentiments on Mr. Wallenberg’s case. “There has simply never been anything that comes close to a full or credible account of what happened to Raoul Wallenberg after he was arrested by the Soviets in Budapest.” “The recent release of a Hungarian Prisoner of War – held for more than 55 years in Soviet and Russian prisons – must surely intensify the longing of the Wallenberg family and the thousands whom Mr. Wallenberg saved to know what has happened to the hero of Budapest. For decades, they have been left not knowing whether Raoul Wallenberg is alive or dead,” Hoyer added. “Today, we will send a letter to Russian Ambassador Yury Ushakov,” Chairman Smith added. “We are asking the Russian Government to provide a complete accounting of Mr. Wallenberg’s fate to his family, to the people whose lives he saved, and to the world which has benefitted so profoundly from his courage, integrity and initiative. Justice demands no less.” Joining Chairman Smith and Commissioner Hoyer in the letter to Ambassador Ushakov are Commissioners Senator Russell Feingold (D-WI), Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Rep. Joseph R. Pitts (R-PA), Rep. Michael P. Forbes (D-NY), House International Relations Committee Ranking Member Rep. Sam Gejdenson (D-CT) and International Relations Subcommittee Chair Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL).

  • Helsinki Commission Chairman Decries Lack of Northern Ireland Police Reforms

    WASHINGTON - United States Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) said today the British Government will determine whether police reform becomes a “linchpin or Achilles heel in the Good Friday Agreement,” underscoring just how much rides on policing reform for a just and lasting peace in Northern Ireland. In his sixth hearing examining the ongoing human rights efforts in Northern Ireland, Chairman Smith stressed the importance of the British Government’s pending decision either to enact the entire Patten Report in a definitive move towards policing reform, or continue standing idly by as police injustice continues. “Tremendous strides have been made toward peace in Northern Ireland in the past few years, and in 1998, the Good Friday Agreement was signed and strongly endorsed by public referendums in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland,” said Smith. “The parties to the Agreement recognized it as a blueprint for the future and specifically recognized the promise it offered to craft ‘a new beginning to policing in Northern Ireland.’” On September 9, 1999, the Independent Commission on Policing for Northern Ireland issued its report which contained 175 recommendations for change and reform and stated that “policing was at the heart of many of the problems politicians have been unable to resolve in Northern Ireland,” added Smith. “Regrettably, the Police Bill scheduled for the House of Lords in early October does not fully reflect these and many other recommendations.” “The Patten report provides a framework on which a police service built on a foundation of human rights can be achieved,” said Gerald Lynch, President of John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a member of the former Patten Commission. “The recommendations of the Patten Commission were unanimous. It is crucial that the recommendations not be cherry picked but be implemented in a cohesive and constructive manner,” added Lynch. “I believe that the Patten Report is not only what [Northern Ireland Secretary of State Peter] Mandelson should fully implement under the Agreement as proof of rigorous impartiality in his administration, but also what he should implement even if there were to be no Agreement,” said Brendan O’Leary, Professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science. O’Leary called the pending Policing Bill a “poorly disguised facade” that does not implement the Patten report. Smith noted that the Patten Commission recognized that one of the RUC’s most striking problems is its lack of accountability. Smith noted that of 16,375 complaints received by the Independent Commission for Police Complaints (ICPC) prior to 1994, not one single case resulted in any disciplinary sanction against an RUC officer. In 1996, 2,540 complaints were submitted to the ICPC, only one RUC officer was found guilty of abuse. In 1997, one person was dismissed from the RUC-one person out of 5,500 complaints that year. “To address the problems of accountability, the Patten Commission offered many recommendations such as replacing the Independent Commission for Police Complaints with a Police Ombudsman’s office that would have its own staff and investigative powers. The Commission also recommended a new Policing Board and an International Oversight Commissioner with the authority to help shape a new police force that would have the confidence of the community it serves,” said Smith. “Yet the legislation limits instead of extends the powers of these institutions. Incredibly, the Police Bill gives the Northern Ireland Secretary of State a veto authority to prevent a Policing Board inquiry if the inquiry would ‘serve no useful purpose;’ it restricts the Ombudsman’s ability to investigate police policies and practices, completely prohibits the Policing Board from looking into any acts that occurred before the bill is enacted, and restricts the Oversight Commissioner to overseeing only those changes in policing that the government approves.” “The Police Bill also rejects the Patten Commission’s recommendation that all police officers in Northern Ireland take an oath expressing an explicit commitment to upholding human rights. This recommendation should have been the absolute floor for the new police service,” said Smith. “Despite the fact that the first draft of the Police Bill incorporated less than two-thirds of the Patten recommendations, Mr. Mandelson continues to argue that this bill is the implementation of Patten.” Elisa Massimino, Washington Office Director of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, noted that the British Government’s lack of pursuit in installing human rights measures raises a number of concerns. “Although the British Government has repeatedly asserted that it ‘recognizes the importance of human rights,’ its ongoing resistance to inserting reference to international human rights standards into the language of the Police Bill raises serious questions,” said Massimino. Martin O’Brien of the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ), a non-sectarian human rights group in Belfast which has been working for the implementation of the Patten Report, said, “Implementation is everything, and in that context, CAJ must report to Congress our profound disappointment at developments since the publication of the Patten report.” “The Good Friday Agreement offers the best chance for peace that Northern Ireland has had in the past thirty years,” said Smith. “I hope and pray that the British Government will seize the promise of the Good Friday Agreement to create a police service that, in the words of that Agreement, is ‘professional, effective and efficient, fair and impartial, free from partisan political control; accountable, both under the law for its actions and to the community it serves; representative of the society it polices, and operates within a coherent and co-operative criminal justice system, which conforms with human rights norms.’ These standards are consistent with the UK’s commitments as a participating State of the OSCE and they are what the people of Northern Ireland deserve.”

  • Helsinki Commission Co-Hosts Exhibit Honoring Return of Soviet Jews to Israel

    WASHINGTON - The United States Helsinki Commission will honor the ten year anniversary of the peak exodus of Soviet Jews to Israel by co-hosting a photography exhibition by photographer Patricia Dalzell and author Michele Clark who have combined their talents in a presentation entitled Voices of Ascent: The Return of the Soviet Jews to Israel. The exhibit will open Tuesday, September 19, 2000 in the Rotunda of the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill and will be on display through Friday, September 22. Helsinki Commission Co-Chairmen Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) and Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO), Ranking Members Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD) and Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), and Commissioner Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) have coordinated this occasion for historical remembrance which coincides with the 25th Anniversary of the signing of the Helsinki Final Act. The release of the Jews from the former Soviet Union has been one of the most compelling events of the Twentieth Century. This legacy is a testimony to the heroic perseverance of the human spirit in the face of extraordinary persecution. For decades, Soviet Jews were imprisoned for their religious activism, denied the right to leave, and suffered a second-class status within the country of their birth. Yet, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, thousands continued to believe that they would one day be allowed to live in freedom. Then, in 1989, the pendulum of history swung dramatically. Following Mikhail Gorbachev’s newly implemented policies of glasnost, the Soviet government finally heeded the international outcry and permitted Soviet Jews to emigrate to Israel. Beginning with a trickle, the exodus rapidly grew to historic proportions when almost 200,000 people returned to Israel in 1990. This was a victory for the Jews of the Soviet Union, as well as the thousands of organizations and advocates worldwide who had labored tirelessly for their freedom, including the Helsinki Commission which played a leading role in advocating their liberty. Close to one million Soviet Jews have immigrated to Israel since the Soviet Union began respecting their right to freedom of movement. This exhibit of photos and narrative text is a fitting way to mark the decade anniversary of the return of the Soviet Jews.

  • Helsinki Commission Probes Northern Ireland Human Rights and Policing Reforms

    Washington - The United States Helsinki Commission will examine progress towards policing reforms in Northern Ireland in light of the legislation pending in the British Parliament aimed at implementing the recommendations of the Independent Commission on Policing for Northern Ireland. Protecting Human Rights and Securing Peace in Northern Ireland The Vital Role of Police Reform Friday, September 22, 2000 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. 2172 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, DC Open to Members, Staff, Press and the Public Invited to testify are: Brendan O’Leary, Professor of Political Science, London School of Economics; co-author of Policing Northern Ireland; and former advisor to the Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1988 - 1995) Chris Patten, Chairman, former Independent Commission on Policing for Northern Ireland Brice Dickson, Chairman, Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission Les Rodgers, Chairman, Police Federation for Northern Ireland Martin O’Brien, Director, Committee on the Administration of Justice, Belfast Elisa Massimino, Director, Washington Office, Lawyers Committee for Human Rights British and Irish Government representatives have also been invited. Written submissions from the signatories to the Good Friday Agreement will be welcomed and additional witnesses may be added. Background: In 1998, the Good Friday Agreement – which was overwhelmingly approved by public referendums in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland – called for "a new beginning to policing in Northern Ireland." The Agreement called for the creation of an independent commission to make recommendations for future policing arrangements in Northern Ireland. Accordingly, the Independent Commission on Policing for Northern Ireland (also known as the "Patten Commission" after its chair, Chris Patten) was created in 1998. In September 1999, the Patten Commission issued a report and 175 recommendations for creating a "new beginning to policing in Northern Ireland." On his visit to the United States and in a meeting with the Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights, Mr. Patten warned against partial implementation of the Commission’s 175 recommendations. “I hope that nobody starts cherry-picking in this document, because I think it hangs together as a whole,” Mr. Patten said. In June 2000, the British Government introduced legislation in Westminster which the Government asserts will fully implement the recommendations of the Patten Commission. The bill has been harshly criticized by human rights advocates, academics, and politicians from both nationalist and unionist parties in Northern Ireland. Approximately ninety-two percent of officers in Northern Ireland’s Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) are Protestant. The RUC is seen by Northern Ireland’s Catholic/nationalist community as a tool of the British Government and of the Protestant/unionist community. Unionists view the RUC officers as dedicated public servants who have suffered grievously while protecting the public in Northern Ireland from terrorists. Human rights monitoring organizations allege that the RUC has long been implicated in human rights abuses for which few, if any, police officers have been held accountable. This hearing will examine the status of policing reforms in Northern Ireland as envisioned by the Good Friday Agreement.

  • Russia's Human Rights Record Subject of Helsinki Commission Briefing

    WASHINGTON - The United States Helsinki Commission will review Russia’s record on free speech, religious liberty and criminal justice during a Capitol Hill briefing on Tuesday, September 19, 2000 in cooperation with the Moscow Helsinki Group and the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews. The briefing will look beyond Moscow’s efforts to improve its human rights record and survey the level of respect for human rights in 60 of Russia’s 89 regions. Human Rights in Russia Today Tuesday, September 19, 2000 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. 2255 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, D.C. Panelists: Ludmilla Alexeyeva, an original member and current Chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG) Micah Naftalin, National Director, Union of Councils of Soviet Jews (UCSJ) Viktor Lozinsky, Chairman, NGO Initiative Group for the Implementation of the Helsinki Accords, Ryazan, Russia Accompanying Ms. Alexeyeva and Mr. Naftalin will be Daniel Meshcheryakov, Manager of Operations MHG, and Leonid Stonov, Director, International Human Rights Bureaus, UCSJ. Ms. Alexeyeva and Mr. Naftalin will officially release the MHG/UCSJ annual report, “Human Rights Situation in the Russian Federation, 1999.” The report is based on year-long monitoring conducted in 60 Russian regions through the efforts of local human rights NGOs in Russia and coordinated by the Moscow Helsinki Group. This annual report will cover human rights developments in1999. Mr. Lozinsky will provide additional commentary. Noting concern and inconsistency of protection of human rights, the monitoring effort was initiated with a grant from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and continuing support from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The report covers a broad range of human dimension issues from freedoms of speech and press, religious liberty, corruption and torture in the justice system, to the ill treatment of children and military personnel, and prison conditions. The Moscow Helsinki Group was founded in May 1976 to further compliance in the Soviet Union with the provisions of the Helsinki Final Act, also known as the Helsinki Accords. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Final Act on August 1, 1975, launching a process dedicated to advancing democracy, human rights, and the rule of law in a region stretching from Vancouver to Vladivostok. A resolution recognizing the 25th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act was passed by the United States Senate and is scheduled for consideration by the House of Representatives next week.

  • Helsinki Commission Leaders: Attack on Glasnost Foundation Another Step Towards "Thugocracy"

    WASHINGTON - The leaders of the United States Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe today condemned a police raid in Moscow on the Glasnost Foundation, a prominent human rights organization headed by former Soviet political prisoner Sergei Grigoryants. According to The Moscow Times, masked commandos led by a police lieutenant broke down a door to the Glasnost Foundation office and forced a dozen people inside, including a 10-year-old child, to lie on the floor for 40 minutes and then left the scene without explanation. A police official purportedly in charge of patrols in the precinct later told the Times that he knew nothing about the raid. The Foundation has been critical of Russia’s policies in the Chechen conflict. Commission Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) and Ranking Member Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD) denounced the police raid. “Once again,” said Smith, “the Moscow police, like Ivan the Terrible’s Oprichniki have swept down to terrorize some people who have offended the powers that be. Mr. Putin can talk until he’s blue, or perhaps red, in the face about democracy and rule of law, but this latest action against the Glasnost Foundation demonstrates the hollowness of his words. The Russia that was moving toward democracy, appears to have detoured, under the guise of ‘law and order’ and ‘stability,’ toward a ‘thugocracy.’” “This attack on the Glasnost Foundation is extremely disturbing,” said Hoyer. “Either President Putin approves of the trampling of his citizens’ civil rights, or he has lost control of the law enforcement authority in his country. Civil liberties in Russia seem to be dying the death of a thousand police raids.” concluded Hoyer. Sergei Grigoryants is a journalist and literary critic who spent nine years in labor camps and prison during the Soviet era. After his release from prison in 1987, he founded the first openly-published independent journal in the Soviet Union, Glasnost. He is founder and chairman of the Glasnost Foundation for the development of civil society in Russia. The foundation has convened a series of conferences on the theme “KGB: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.”

  • Helsinki Commission Chairman Decries Murder of Romani Woman

    WASHINGTON - Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) today denounced the racially motivated murder of a Romani woman in Zilina, Slovakia, this week. On Sunday, August 20, three men entered the home of Anastazia Balazova and attacked her with baseball bats, yelling racial epithets. Two children present during the brutal murder had to be treated for injuries. On August 22, Ms. Balazova, a mother of eight, died of her injuries. Today, the Slovak Parliament held a minute of silence in homage to the slain woman. “I join with Slovak Ambassador Martin Butora, Deputy Foreign Minister Jan Figel, and Deputy Prime Minister Pal Csaky in condemning the outrageous and brutal murder of Anastazia Balavova. This killing stands as yet further evidence that more – much more – must be done to combat the injustices to which Roma are subjected,” said Chairman Smith. “I agree with Minister Figel that this is a ‘deplorable act,’” Chairman Smith continued. “I agree with Minister Csaky that this is a ‘shocking tragedy.’ And I agree with Ambassador Butora that this was a ‘despicable and heinous crime.’ Like Ambassador Butora, I raise my voice to strongly oppose this barbarous act.” “Unfortunately, this is not an isolated, freak event. In many countries, Roma face the kind of prejudice that, if unchecked, is all too likely to escalate into violence,” Chairman Smith said. “Ethnic Bulgarians in the village of Mechka have refused to allow Roma into grocery stores or other public places. In Nea Kios, Greece, the city council decided in May to exclude Roma from the village. In Csor, Hungary, the mayor has stated that the Roma ‘have no place among human beings.’ In all of these countries, national leaders have stood by in shameful silence. In such a climate, is it any wonder that thugs believe they can attack women and children with impunity?” Chairman Smith asked. “This pattern must end. The perpetrators of the cowardly murder of Anastazia Balazova must be held accountable before the law for the crimes they have committed. Moreover, governments must face up to their responsibilities. Public leaders who remain silent in the face of blatant manifestations of racism against Roma implicitly condone bigotry. From Budapest to Athens, it is time for national leaders to stand up and be counted,” Chairman Smith said.

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