Reform and Human Rights in Eastern EuropeThursday, December 01, 1988
During the course of the last several years, tremendous political changes have occurred in Eastern Europe. On the plus side of the ledger, the United States normalized relations with Poland, symbolized by the reinstatement of Poland's Most-Favored-Nation trad ing status (MFN) in 1987, following a series of prisoner amnesties and political improvements peaking in 1986. In Hungary, progress has included the introduction of a new passport law, undoubtedly the most liberal in Eastern Europe to date, permitting passport is suance according to roughly the same standards as in the West. In the German Democratic Republic, record numbers of people have been permitted to travel and to emigrate. On the negative side of the ledger, to mention only the most striking case of deterioration, United States relations with Romania have chilled because of that country's progressively poorer human rights performance. This led Romania to renounce its MFN privileges rather than face what promised to be a highly critical assessment before the U.S. Congress in 1988. In spite of worldwide condemnation of its policies, Romania has forged ahead with plans to destroy up to half of its approximately 13,000 villages. All this is painted onto domestic political and economic canvases which can seem alternately diverse and yet uniform, capable of metamorphosis and yet stagnant. In spite of the notable changes, there are few discernible area-wide trends in this geographic region united by its postwar fate. It is no wonder, then, that East European analysts have been left scratching their heads, trying to make sense out of all that is happening, or -- in some cases -- not happening. One of the traditional questions posed by these analysts involves the degree of influence events in the Soviet Union have on developments in Eastern Europe. The latest angle in this sophisticated guesswork has become the question of what role Mikhail Gorbachev performs in Eastern Europe's own passion play. Since World War II, Europe from the Baltic to the Black Sea has been the victim of push-me, pull-you politics emanating from Moscow: now racing to catchup with de-Stalinization, now being punished for taking de-Stalinization too far. Today's Eastern Europe seems to continue to walk a poorly defined path between being reactive to events in the Soviet Union, and proactively leading the way to parts unknown. Understanding the changes taking place in the region -- and the opportunities for the West which have arisen as a result of them -- may be more critical now than at any time since the end of World War II. Consequently, the Helsinki Commission has followed developments in Eastern Europe more closely during the past Congress than ever before. Extensive hearings have been held on virtually every aspect of the Helsinki Accords as they apply to Eastern Europe, drawing on a wide range of experts on East European affairs, including renowned scholars, high-ranking government officials, representatives from nongovernmental organizations, and East Europeans speaking from their firsthand experiences. In addition, the Commission has led congressional delegations to all six East European countries. These unprecedented trips provided Helsinki Commissioners and other Members of Congress with the opportunity to engage government officials in a dialogue on all aspects of the Helsinki Final Act, and to exchange views regarding specific areas of bilateral and multilateral concern. Just as important were delegation meetings with a wide range of private citizens, representing independent and unofficial thinking among the political, religious, and cultural communities. Commission staff delegations to Poland, Romania, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia have performed important follow-up activities. The report that follows is based on the information garnered by the Commission's numerous hearings, delegations, and reports. It is an attempt to take that information one step further and, like The Gorbachev Record which precedes it, present a sober, factual analysis of trends in the countries of Eastern Europe. It is hoped that, as a result, we will better understand where and in what ways positive change is taking place in Eastern Europe, and where compliance with the Helsinki Final Act cries for improvement.
Vienna Review Meeting of the CSCE - Phase III and IVFriday, January 01, 1988
The main activity of the Vienna Meeting throughout Phases III and IV was the presentation and negotiation of proposals for inclu sion in the concluding document of the meeting. The number (more than 160), complexity and controversial nature of many of these proposals led to the extension of the Vienna Meeting well beyond its target closing date of July 31. These factors, along with other elements such as continuing major shortcomings in the implementa tion of existing commitments, are largely responsible for the continuation of the Vienna Meeting into 1988. The slow pace of progress already evident in Phase II continued through the next phase. Each side defended its own proposals but showed little disposition to begin the process of compromise which could lead to the conclusion of the meeting. The main procedural development during this phase was the appointment of coordinators from the neutral and non-aligned states to guide the work of the drafting groups. This development provided greater order and structure for the proceedings but did little to advance the drafting work or to induce compromises. Other major developments during this phase were the introduction of the long-awaited Western proposal on military security and the tabling of a comprehensive compromise proposed in Basket III by two neutral delegations, Austria and Switzerland. Both proposals were put forth at the very end of the phase and thus did not have much impact until the next phase. The Western (NATO) proposal on military security questions was designed as a response to the Eastern proposal which envisioned two main objectives: another round of negotiations on confidence and security-building measures (CSBMs) to build upon the successful Stockholm meeting and the initiation of negotiations on conventional disarmament, both within the same CSCE forum. The Western response to this proposal was delayed primarily because of United States and French differences over the connection between the conventional arms negotiations and the CSCE process, the French arguing that the negotiations should be an integral part of the process and the U.S. insisting that they be independent. The issue was resolved by agreement that the negotiations would be "within the framework of the CSCE," but should remain autonomous.
List of Organizations Involved in Exchange Programs with the Soviet Union and Eastern EuropeWednesday, October 01, 1986
The Commission developed this report to help interested persons and organizations participate in exchange programs with the Soviet Union and the countries of Eastern Europe: Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria. It lists organizations which conduct exchange programs and other contacts with these countries. The parties to the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe declared their intention to expand cooperation in security, economic, humanitarian, information, culture, and education affairs and to respect and put into practice certain basic principles, including those of human rights. The Final Act was signed in Helsinki on August 1, 1975, by 35 heads of state or government, including the United States, Canada, and every state in Europe except Albania. The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki Commission) was created as an independent government agency in 1976 to monitor compliance with the Final Act and to encourage U.S. governmental and private programs to expand East-West economic and cultural cooperation and exchange of people and ideas. In the Final Act, the signatories express the view that cultural exchanges and development of relations in education and science contribute to the strengthening of peace, better mutual under standing, and enrichment of the human personality. In the Com mission's view, exchange programs with the Soviet bloc countries break down barriers and lessen distrust. They help Americans learn about the views and goals of these societies. Such programs help expose the peoples of these countries to the values and goals of our pluralistic society. Critical to such programs is that Americans are given the opportunity to tell the Soviets and their allies on a personal level about their concern for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Update on Raoul WallenbergWednesday, August 03, 1983
This hearing focused on the disappearance of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, distinguished diplomat who risked his life to help grant protection to Jewish refugees in Hungary during Nazis occupation. Wallenberg’s whereabouts became unknown when the Soviets liberated Hungary. Despite Soviet declarations that Mr. Wallenberg died in 1947, many witnesses have contested this claim and have reported that he is in fact in Soviet prison. The Commissioners and the witnesses discussed the U.S. response and what further actions may be needed.
Soviet Jewry: H. Con. Res. 63Thursday, June 23, 1983
This joint hearing by the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Human Rights and International Organizations, and the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe examined the plight of Jews in the Soviet Union. Moscow's heightened campaign of hatred against its own citizens, in flagrant disregard of international law, was identified as a factor in whether the United States should enter into any further agreements with the Soviet Union, especially ones which involve United States security. Witnesses testifying at this hearing expressed their concerns about the continued persecution and harassment of the Jewish community in the Soviet Union. The repressive policies instituted by the Soviet regime to destroy Jewish culture, despite its commitment to the human rights terms agreed upon during the Helsinki Final Act, were outlined.
IMPLEMENTATION OF THE HELSINKI ACCORDS VOL. IV - REPORTS ON SOVIET REPRESSION AND THE BELGRADE CONFERENCESunday, June 05, 1977
In light of first anniversary of the creation of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, this hearing focused on the work and the plight of courageous individuals who utilized the Helsinki accords as instruments for advancing international respect for human rights. In particular, the hearing delved into the case of Anatoly Shcharansky, one of the most courageous spokesmen of human rights in the U.S.S.R., faces treason charges as groundless as they are ominous. The Soviet decision to hold a show trial for Shcharansky with phony evidence and counterfeit witnesses combined with the earlier arrest of members of Helsinki monitoring groups in Russia, Ukraine, and most recently, in Georgia, were in violation of the Helsinki accords.
Implementation of the Helsinki Accords Vol. III – Information Flow, And Cultural And Educational ExchangesTuesday, May 17, 1977
In this hearing, Commissioner Dante Fascell and others discussed the impact that the Helsinki Accords had on easing and expanding the flow of ideas and information across ideological and international frontiers. The rationale for this hearing, which consisted of three mornings of testimony, was that, while the Commission has had a long and storied history of hearing and discussing the movement of people, one goal of the Helsinki Accords is to diminish the obstacles that keep the views of others out, which are also the borders that restrict freedom of movement for people.
Conference on Security and Cooperation in EuropeTuesday, May 06, 1975
In July 1973 the Foreign Ministers of 33 European countries and the United States opened the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), in Helsinki. Since then the participants have made slow but steady progress on a broad range of security, political, economic and other issues of mutual concern. As the conference reaches what appears to be a conclusive stage interest in its eventual outcome has mounted both in Congress and throughout the Nation: Special concern has been expressed over the implications the Conference may have for such issues as human rights in Eastern Europe, the division of Germany, U.S. force levels in Europe, and the future of the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
Justice at Home
Promoting human rights, good governance, and anti-corruption abroad can only be possible if the United States lives up to its values at home. By signing the Helsinki Final Act, the United States committed to respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, even under the most challenging circumstances. However, like other OSCE participating States, the United States sometimes struggles to foster racial and religious equity, counter hate and discrimination, defend fundamental freedoms, and hold those in positions of authority accountable for their actions. The Helsinki Commission works to ensure that U.S. practices align with the country’s international commitments and that the United States remains responsive to legitimate concerns raised in the OSCE context, including about the death penalty, use of force by law enforcement, racial and religious profiling, and other criminal justice practices; the conduct of elections; and the status and treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere.
Human rights within states are crucial to security among states. Prioritizing respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, defending the principles of liberty, and encouraging tolerance within societies must be at the forefront of America's foreign policy agenda. Peace, security, and prosperity cannot be sustained if national governments repress their citizens, stifle their media, or imprison members of the political opposition. Authoritarian regimes become increasingly unstable as citizens chafe under the bonds of persecution and violence, and pose a danger not only to their citizens, but also to neighboring nations. The Helsinki Commission strives to ensure that the protection of human rights and defense of democratic values are central to U.S. foreign policy; that they are applied consistently in U.S. relations with other countries; that violations of Helsinki provisions are given full consideration in U.S. policymaking; and that the United States holds those who repress their citizens accountable for their actions. This includes battling corruption; protecting the fundamental freedoms of all people, especially those who historically have been persecuted and marginalized; promoting the sustainable management of resources; and balancing national security interests with respect for human rights to achieve long-term positive outcomes rather than short-term gains.
Having just come from Auschwitz, I understand the importance of this Conference and the opportunity today that I have to speak about the urgency of ensuring proper responses by national leaders and government officials to anti-Semitism.
Seeing the remains of that factory of intolerance, hate and death, I believe we cannot be reminded enough of the real consequences of not protecting universal human rights in the OSCE region.
We must tirelessly work to build understanding between different communities to prevent future acts of prejudice and injustice. I believe the first responsibility in this regard rests with governments and officials, as they can greatly influence the domestic climate for tolerance and respect.
This can occur through a variety of ways, foremost when elected and governmental leaders visibly speak out against acts of intolerance. Leaders must make it clear that anti-Semitism is a threat to democracy. Elected leaders like myself are naturally attuned to the will of their constituents. We like to get re-elected. Yet there is a danger of being too differential to populist concerns, what can, in worst-case scenarios, lead to harassment, intimidation and even physical violence. We must therefore provide leadership on issues like anti-Semitism and intolerance and clearly state our beliefs that these sentiments are unacceptable.
Collectively, we must raise our expectations for our leaders to be involved. It is a risk worth taking. If we lead with resolve, we can impact the overall health of our societies. In short, we must act courageously and speak out boldly.
I am reminded of the actions of Turkish leaders after the horrible Istanbul bombings last November. Not only did Prime Minister Erdogan publicly denounce the two synagogue bombings, but he also met with Jewish leaders, reportedly a first in the history of the Republic. Seeing pictures from the funeral on that rain-drenched day, the caskets were draped with the Turkish flag, an honor normally reserved for soldiers or civilians who paid the ultimate price for their country. The message was unmistakable: despite being a predominantly Muslim country, Turkish leaders made clear this was not an attack on Jews, but rather an attack on Turks who happened to be Jewish, who were victimized because of their religion. Turkey has set an example for us all, and with its bold moves for EU accession and continued to progress toward the improving the treatment of its religious and ethnic minorities, it is working to create government policies that promote tolerance and non-discrimination. I salute the Turkish Government for unequivocally condemning the hateful acts perpetrated against the Jewish community in that country.
National and local community leaders clearly have a role to play in speaking out. In the United States, after 9/11, President Bush visited a mosque in Washington, DC, and made clear that those evil acts did not represent Islam. Locally, I similarly met with Muslim leaders in my district in Baltimore, Maryland, after September 11th to show my support for their community.
In addition to speaking out against incidents when they occur, we must all ensure our domestic laws can properly deal with these criminal acts. We must ensure law enforcement is doing everything possible to prosecute the perpetrators of these hateful acts.
In the OSCE context, many participating States responded to the spike of anti-Semitic violence, recognizing the unacceptability of the trend. The French National Assembly passed laws enhancing penalties for crimes motivated by anti-Semitism. The new laws doubled prison sentences for crimes of a “racist, anti-Semitic, or xenophobic” nature, as well as created special training programs for judges. France backed up its statements with funding, which demonstrates its real commitment, and budgeted serious amounts to improve the security of Jewish community establishments.
Other countries are acting as well. The German Bundestag recently issued a resolution denouncing anti-Semitic violence, and in Canada a similar resolution has been introduced. The U.S. Congress has recently funded an ethics center at the U.S. Naval Academy, which is in the district I represent. In another U.S. military initiative, a new generation of military leaders will now visit concentration camps, like Auschwitz, and be inspired to never again allow injustices of this magnitude to occur.
Yet even under the most favourable conditions, instances of bigotry can manifest themselves. The question is how can we measure levels of intolerance in our societies? Opinion polls and community surveys can discern inclinations and prejudices, but when dislike transforms into actions of hate and crosses the threshold of criminal acts, we must have mechanisms in place to track these occurrences.
I am proud to say that the United States has been monitoring hate crimes and compiling the information into a yearly report since 1990. This enables policymakers to track trends and then develop strategies to address these findings. Without a monitoring mechanism, how can officials intelligently move forward? Without the capability to recognize when communities are being targeted, how can governments provide a credible level of protection for likely victims?
I am proud to note that in the OSCE region efforts are underway to increase the tracking of manifestations of anti-Semitism and intolerance in all participating States, and to forward these statistics to ODIHR for compilation and publication. The OSCE Permanent Council just last week came to a consensus decision that all participating States will gather information on crimes related to anti-Semitism or intolerance. I urge all countries to genuinely fulfil this commitment, while also working with NGOs, so that the most complete picture can be obtained.
Let us not forget that the burden to monitor and track incidents of anti-Semitism and intolerance rests first with participating States. I therefore trust ODIHR will receive robust support from all OSCE countries, so it can fully execute this task while not sacrificing its good programming in other areas. We should also support collectively strengthening OSCE’s capacity to gather information from each of our participating States, share best practices, and offer help to States in developing effective strategies to fight anti-Semitism. Participating States should strive to implement these commitments as soon as possible, so we can begin to understand the nature of the problem and craft practical solutions.
However, collecting data is only a starting point, creating the basis for future action. We must not confuse our efforts here today to be the victory against anti-Semitism. Today’s meeting is historic and a tremendous statement of our resolve to fight this evil, but we will be judged by how we follow up on these discussions and debates.
Each of our States must be committed to develop an action strategy to combat anti-Semitism. That strategy should be open to review with regular oversight by parliament. The NGO community must be a resource used by each State. The OSCE’s capacity to assist States in this effort needs to be focused and strengthened.
In closing, Mr. Moderator, the first way to promote tolerance is to fight intolerance. By speaking-out forcefully when instances of bigotry and hate arise at home, we can make certain that acts of intolerance will not be entertained or sanctioned. Remembering the horrors of Auschwitz and other grotesque examples of hatred, I genuinely hope States will leave today fully committed to combat intolerance and discrimination.