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Statements

See what our chair, co-chair, and commissioners have had to say on the floor of the House and the Senate.

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  • Congratulating Albania and Croatia on Being Invited to Begin Accession Talks with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization

    Madam Speaker, as we now consider and certainly will adopt House Resolution 1266, congratulating Albania and Croatia on being invited to begin accession talks with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and expressing support for continuing to enlarge the alliance, I would like to express my support for these countries as they move forward.  As Chairman of the Helsinki Commission, I convened a hearing on NATO enlargement in early March, where we examined the respective NATO prospects not only of Albania and Croatia but also of Macedonia, Georgia and Ukraine. While some of these countries must still contend with outstanding issues, whether of their own making or not, I strongly support their NATO aspirations and encourage them to move forward as well.  I am well aware of the many hurdles Albania has faced in recovering from decades of extremely repressive communist rule. Albania has also had to confront an often undeservedly negative image in the rest of Europe. Receiving its invitation at the Bucharest summit in April, therefore, was an amazing achievement of which every Albanian citizen, regardless of their political affiliation, should be proud. It is my hope, however, that the sense of accomplishment will encourage the country's leaders to continue the transition to a state based on democratic norms and the rule of law, especially as Albania prepares for elections next year and continues its investigation of the March tragedy at Gerdec.  Croatia also has had to address many challenges prior to receiving its invitation, although in its case those challenges related to the very violent conflicts associated with Yugoslavia's demise in the 1990s. It was clear that Croatia always had the potential to recover quickly, and it fortunately did just that.  The challenges Albania and Croatia have faced, in my view, will ultimately make them better allies. Their citizens have an appreciation of freedom and a desire for protecting freedom that many living in more established democracies may have lost. And as countries who can recall their dependence on European security structures to help them in their times of need, they now are committed to becoming contributors to those same European security structures.

  • Medical Evidence of Torture by U.S. Personnel

    Madam Speaker, last week the Helsinki Commission, which I Chair, held a briefing at which representatives from Physicians for Human Rights presented the findings of their recently published report, ``Broken Laws, Broken Lives.'' In it, they documented the medical evidence of torture by U.S. personnel in 11 specific cases. I believe this briefing was the first opportunity on Capitol Hill for the public to hear specifically about the medical consequences of the administration's detention policies and to consider some of the ethical questions related to the medical treatment of detainees, including forced feeding and the possible role of medical professionals during interrogations.  We were fortunate to have with us as panelists Leonard Rubenstein, J.D., President of Physicians for Human Rights; Dr. Allen Keller, Advisor to Physicians for Human Rights and Director of the Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture; and Dr. Scott Allen, also an Advisor to Physicians for Human Rights.  For many years, members of the Helsinki Commission have been actively engaged on issues related to torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment. Over the years, we have raised concern about the nearly constant reports of torture and abuse in Chechnya. We have pressed Turkey to provide detainees with prompt access to lawyers and medical personnel, because we know that when people are held incommunicado, they are more likely to experience torture. We have expressed alarm regarding the number of people who walk into Uzbekistan jails on their own two feet--and who have been returned to their families in boxes.  Last week, it was my sad duty to hear representatives from Physicians for Human Rights describe the torture and ill-treatment some detainees have experienced at the hands of U.S. personnel. As I noted then, I certainly expected to hear about the medical and psychological impact of this torture on the individuals whose cases were investigated by Physicians for Human Rights. But, coincidently, there was a different kind of impact on display last week, when the U.S. also opened its first war crimes trial since World War II.  In the trial of Salim Hamdan, alleged to be Osama bin Laden's driver, the military judge overseeing the case found it necessary to exclude from evidence several statements of the defendant because they were obtained under what the military judge deemed ``highly coercive'' conditions. Another one of the government's efforts to bring a defendant before a military tribunal had already been put indefinitely on hold, reportedly because the evidence in the case cannot be disentangled from the impermissible methods that were used to extract it. In other words, the use of abusive interrogation methods has undermined the government's ability to prosecute people suspected of terrorism or terrorism-related crimes.  Let me repeat: the ill-conceived policy of ``enhanced interrogations'' has undermined our country's ability to prosecute people for the most serious crimes committed against this nation.  As it happened, on the day of our briefing last week, the ACLU released three new ``torture memos'' it had obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. Although highly redacted--indeed, one of them has ten pages that are entirely blacked out--these documents nevertheless provide some additional insight into the development of the policies that set the stage for what Major General Antonio Taguba, in his preface for the Physicians for Human Rights report, called ``a systematic regime of torture.'' (You may recall that General Taguba led the U.S. Army's official investigations into the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal.)  Here's just one bit of information we now have from a memo prepared by the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel on August 1, 2002 and released last week. This memo, prepared for the CIA, advises that the crime of torture, as defined by U.S. statute, requires a showing of specific intent to cause severe pain or suffering. That specific intent, in turn, will be negated if a defendant acts with a good faith belief that his actions will not cause severe pain or suffering. That good faith belief can be demonstrated by showing that an official acted in reliance on the advice of experts. And guess what? The Office of Legal Counsel is a bunch of experts. And they go on to say that the objective of the interrogation techniques under discussion--we don't know precisely what they are because they're blacked out--is not to cause severe physical pain. Just like magic, you have your expert advice, which gives you your good-faith belief, which negates the specific intent required under the statute which criminalizes torture. So you guys can go ahead and waterboard and God knows what else because the Office of Legal Counsel has told you that it does not cause severe pain or suffering, so you have legal license to ignore your own eyes and ears, which tell you that waterboarding will break a person in minutes.  Madam Speaker, the report by Physicians for Human Rights makes several recommendations that deserve study and consideration. But in light of the release of these most recent torture memos, I would like to highlight today one particular recommendation of the report: ``The U.S. Department of Justice should publicly release all legal opinions and other memoranda concerning standards regarding interrogation and detention policy and practices.''  The Department of Justice is the arbiter of what is the law of the land for this country. And I think the American people have a right to know if their government has sought to redefine ``torture'' as ``not torture.'' Accordingly, I urge the Attorney General to release the full texts of all the memos relating to interrogation and detention policies and practices.

  • The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Session in Kazakhstan

    Madam Speaker, I hereby submit, for the record, the text of my report to you on the activities of the U.S. Delegation to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, held in early July in Astana, Kazakhstan. I want to thank you for allowing me to serve as the head of this delegation, and to express my gratitude to our colleague in the other chamber, Senator Ben Cardin, for serving as the deputy head of the delegation.  I will refrain from repeating here the details of our trip, which can be found in the report, but I would like to make three brief points.  First, I want to praise the work of my ten colleagues who participated on the delegation, namely Mr. Aderholt, Mr. McIntyre, Ms. Solis and Mr. Butterfield who serve with me on the Helsinki Commission, as well as Mr. Wamp, Ms. Loretta Sanchez, Ms. Watson, Ms. Bordallo and Ms. Moore. All were active at the meeting, either speaking or introducing resolutions on issues of concern or making amendments to the initiatives of other delegations. Our colleague Hilda Solis deserves special praise for seeking and being elected to chair a committee in the OSCE PA this coming year, as does Gwen Moore for her many initiatives that kept her busy.  Second, I want to stress to all my colleagues how useful engagement in world affairs is, and the degree to which it advances U.S. interests by being out there, ready to discuss, to debate and ultimately to cooperate in making this a better world. In the framework of the Organization for Security and Cooperation for Europe, or the OSCE as it is often known, there is a strong parliamentary dimension that allows us to engage our allies and friends in Europe and Canada, and including the countries of the Caucasus and Central Asia. We discuss everything from human rights and democracy, to energy and the environment, to regional security and terrorism. I invite my colleagues to consider joining me for next year’s session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in Vilnius, Lithuania.  Third, I want to say a word about Kazakhstan, which served as this year’s host. Kazakhstan is a large, resource-rich and strategically located country, and a country that wishes to play a stronger role in the OSCE and in world affairs generally. The U.S. delegation used its presence in Astana to welcome that fact, and to express our willingness to work with Kazakhstan to that end. At the same time, the Assembly meeting provided an opportunity to stress the need for Kazakhstan to make greater progress regarding human rights and political reforms, in line with its OSCE commitments but also with specific promises its leaders made when the OSCE designated Kazakhstan to chair the organization in 2010.  The final declaration of the OSCE PA Annual Session can be found on the Assembly’s website or by contacting the Helsinki Commission, which I chair. Again, thank you Madam Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to lead this delegation, which accomplished a great deal.

  • A Great Leader Lost: The Death of Bronislaw Geremek

    Madam Speaker, it is my sad duty to note the death last week of former Polish Foreign Minister and OSCE Chair-in Office Bronislaw Geremek, who was killed in a car crash in Poland. I am honored to pay tribute to a Polish patriot who had an impact far beyond the borders of his native country. Born in 1932 to a Jewish family in Warsaw, Bronislaw Geremek was fated to confront the two great evils of the Twentieth Century: Nazism and communism. Having survived the first as a child, he later played an instrumental role in defeating the second. Mr. Geremek trained as an historian – a serious scholar specializing in the history of medieval France. Indeed, as many obituaries have observed, he was the very image of the professional academic, complete with pipe and tweeds. But it was in politics and political life that he truly made his mark and where he has left his legacy. Bronislaw Geremek was a great Polish patriot who knew that his country deserved better than the communist oppression of the post-war period. He protested the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia; he stayed in Poland when anti-Semitic purges drove thousands of other Jews away; and most of all, he helped build necessary bridges between workers and intellectuals. That bond, between these two segments of Polish society, enabled Solidarity to become the mass movement it was. His imprisonment after the imposition of Martial Law on December 13, 1981, did not deter him from his struggle to build a truly free and democratic Poland. In 1989, he was a member of the historic “Round Table” that negotiated the peaceful transition of power. In fact, a delegation from the Helsinki Commission, that included my good friend, and now-House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, was in Poland in August 1989, and watched from the gallery of the Polish parliament when Tadeusz Mazowiecki was elected the first non-communist Prime Minister in more than four decades. Bronislaw Geremek played a singular role in bringing that democratic transition to Poland – and the democratic transition in Poland helped bring democracy to all of Eastern Europe. Bronislaw Geremek subsequently served his country in many ways: as a member of Parliament, not only as a Foreign Minister but the Foreign Minister who signed the treaty bringing Poland into NATO, and then as a member of the European Union Parliament. As Chairman of the Helsinki Commission, I would especially like to note the important role Bronislaw Geremek played when, as Foreign Minister, he served as Chair-in-Office of the OSCE in 1998. Few people understood as well the historical role of the Helsinki Accords and he brought to that mission an unmatched moral leadership. Perhaps most of all, however, Bronislaw Geremek personified the best of Eastern Europe’s intelligentsia – intellectually curious and accomplished, outraged by injustice and impelled to resist it despite the risks, and possessed of a wry sense of humor that endeared him to his colleagues. Bronislaw Geremek’s time on this earth was not merely full, but profoundly consequential. The world is a better place for his having lived. We, in the post-communist-era, are all the beneficiaries of his passion, labor and achievements. Madam Speaker, may Bronislaw Geremek rest in peace, honored by his countrymen and women, remembered fondly and missed by those fortunate enough to have been his friends, and invoked as a role model wherever brains and courage are sorely needed to face down tyranny.    

  • Concern about Treatment of U.S. Citizen in Belarusian Detention

    Madam Speaker, as Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, I would like to draw attention and concern to the case of Mr. Emanuel Zeltser, a U.S. citizen who was detained March 12th upon his arrival in Minsk, Belarus, charged with "use of forged documents.'' In the entire time that Mr. Zeltser has been detained, he has only been allowed visitation by the U.S. Embassy twice, on March 21st and April 25th. Upon the latter visit it was noted by the U.S. consul that Mr. Zeltser had been beaten several times and appeared in greatly weakened health. Mr. Zeltser suffers from Type 2 diabetes and a severe form of arthritis. Though his condition causes him severe pain and has further deteriorated during his incarceration, the authorities in the detention facility where he is held have reportedly denied him necessary medications. Without proper medications, Mr. Zeltser may not be able to survive the harsh conditions of his detention. Furthermore, according to his lawyer, Belarusian authorities have recently extended the period of Mr. Zeltser's term of detention. It is incumbent upon the Belarusian government to provide Mr. Zeltser full consular access, proper medical care, and ensure that he is not subjected to further physical abuse and degrading treatment--consistent with its international legal obligations and basic human rights standards. Time is of the essence in Mr. Zeltser's case, as further delays could lead to further deterioration of his health to the point of endangering his life. Madam Speaker, I call upon the Belarusian authorities to ensure that Mr. Zeltser immediately receives the medication his doctor has prescribed, and is protected from further ill-treatment, given access to U.S. consular representatives and any medical attention he may need. On April 25, the State Department requested the Government of Belarus to release Emanuel Zeltser on humanitarian grounds. I urge the Belarusian Government to favorably consider that request.

  • Teach about the Genocide of Roma

    Madam Speaker, as Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, I closely monitor incidents of racism and intolerance in the OSCE region. Today, rise to address the need to foster greater knowledge of the genocide of Roma. I am moved to do so by some recent developments in the Czech Republic. Too little is known, and too little is understood, about the genocide of Roma during World War II--and that ignorance manifests itself in many ways. Last year, a tape recording emerged of a local housing committee meeting in the town of Ostrava in the eastern part of the Czech Republic, On this tape recording was the voice of Senator Liana Janackova, who was serving as a local mayor at the time the recording was made. And on this tape recording, Senator Janackova is heard to say: ``Unfortunately, I am a racist. I disagree with the integration of Gypsies so that they would live across the area. Unfortunately, we have chosen the Bedriska (colony) and so they will stay there, with a high fence and with electricity.'' She was also heard to saythat she had no place to move the Roma and would therefore like to dynamite them away. News reports say that the Senator has since apologized and called her remarks ``silly'' and explained that they were not directed against all Roma, just some Roma. Last week, this case was back in the news because the Czech Senate declined to lift Senator Janackova's immunity, a necessary step for prosecutors to charge her under the Czech Republic's laws that make defamation of a nation, ethnic group, race or faith a crime. There has already been considerable criticism of the Czech Senate's 54 to 13 vote. According to news reports, those who voted against lifting Senator Janackova's immunity argued that she didn't make those remarks with a racist intent. Senator Janackova declared herself to be a racist and talked about dynamiting members of the Czech Republic's most persecuted minority, but they didn't think she had a racist intent. Frankly, I'm having a little trouble following that logic. The fact is, this case illustrates one of the many ways in which hate speech laws stray from their original purpose and, often, don't work the way they were intended. Now, I am not an advocate of hate speech laws as a means to address racism and intolerance. It is perhaps worth recalling that just a few years ago in the Czech Republic, a Romani woman cursed the wall that had been built in Usti nad Labem to separate Roma from non-Roma. In an extraordinary miscarriage of justice, she was convicted of hate speech for doing so. If not pardoned by Vaclav Havel, she would've gone to prison. And Romani activist Ondrej Gina was threatened with hate speech charges for saying his town was racist. From where I stand, there are just too many cases where people are charged under hate speech laws not because they have fomented racial hatred, but because they have offended the national or local government's political sensitivities. So I am not here to make the case for prosecuting people for the content of their speech, or to argue that Senator Janackova should go to jail for what she said. Instead, I rise today to recommend that Senator Janackova visit the Romani camp at Auschwitz. During World War II, Roma were targeted for death by the Nazis based on their ethnicity. At least 23,000 Roma were brought to Auschwitz-- including many from the concentrations camps at Lety and Hodonin. Almost all of them perished in the gas chambers or from starvation, exhaustion, or disease. Some Roma also died at the hands of sadistic SS doctors, like Joseph Mengele. In fact, a young Czech woman, Dina Babbitt-Gottlieb, also interned at Auschwitz, was forced to paint portraits of Roma for Mengele, who particularly liked to conduct gruesome medical experiments on Roma. On the night of August 2nd and 3rd, 1944, the order was given to liquidate the Romani camp at Auschwitz. In a single evening, 2,897 Romani men, women and children were killed in gas chambers. In the end, almost the entire Romani population of the Czech lands was exterminated during the Nazi occupation. I don't know Senator Janackova. But I'd bet she has not been to the Romani camp at Auschwitz. Maybe she has not even been to the Museum of Roma Culture in Brno. Maybe she could view the collection of photographs of Czech Romani Holocaust victims that have been displayed in Prague. Maybe she could even help secure the resources to remove the pig farm from the site of the Lety concentration camp, as called for by many Romani activists and some government officials. So I'm not calling for Senator Janackova go to jail. But I would like it if she could visit the Romani camp at Auschwitz. I think she would learn a lot there--she might even learn that words can have real  consequences.

  • Sodertalje, Sweden Accepts 5,000 Iraqi Refugees

    Madam Speaker, as Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Helsinki Commission, I rise today to recognize the generosity of the people of Sodertalje, Sweden, who have opened their doors to more than 5,000 Iraqi refugees. This small city has a population of 83,000 and has accepted more Iraqi refugees than the United States and Canada combined.  On April 10, the Mayor of Sodertalje. Mr. Anders Lago, testified at a Helsinki Commission hearing entitled, ``OSCE Partner States and Neighbors Overwhelmed by Iraqi Refugees: Band-Aid Solutions to Implosion in the Middle East?'' In his testimony, Mayor Lago noted, ``The millions of refugees in the world must be a concern for us all, not just for those areas bordering on the breeding grounds of war, or for a small number of countries and cities such as Sodertalje.'' In addition, he said, ``Despite the fact that we need immigrants, Sodertalje has become a town that must now say--STOP, STOP, STOP. Do not misunderstand me. We will always help others when we can. We must act when the lives of our brothers and sisters are in danger. It is imperative that we have a humane refugee policy worldwide. Our common agreement that all people are equal, no matter what color, religion or gender, must become a reality.''  Madam Speaker, the country of Sweden has accepted more than 30,000 Iraqi refugees since 2003. This is no doubt a commendable act of humanitarian kindness. I offer my heartfelt thanks and deep appreciation to the government of Sweden which is truly committed to assisting Iraqi refugees.  It must also be noted that, while Mayor Lago has opened the doors of his small city to so many Iraqi refugees, the strains on its infrastructure have been tremendous. Nonetheless, his generosity and that of the people of Sodertalje put the United States to shame. The Mayor has clearly gone above and beyond the call of duty to help refugees from Iraq and he is nothing short of a ``humanitarian ambassador.''  Madam Speaker. I thank Mayor Anders Lago and the people of Sodertalje, Sweden for their kindness and generosity, and I submit the Mayor's statement for inclusion in the Congressional Record.  Testimony of Anders Lago--Mayor of Sodertalje Municipality and Chairman of the Executive Committee Before Helsinki Commission, April 10, 2008  Chairman Hastings, Members of the Congressional Commission,  Distinguished Speakers and Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,  First and foremost I would like to thank the Commission for your invitation. I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you about the difficult situation regarding the people now fleeing from Iraq.  Allow me to be totally frank. I am not the President, a Cabinet Minister, an Ambassador or even a Member of the Swedish Parliament. I am the Mayor of Sodertalje, a small town with slightly more than eighty thousand inhabitants. I am here today as the representative from a small country on the northern edge of the European Union, but I can say with both pride and disappointment, that when it comes to refugees, I come from a great nation. The United States is the country in the western world that accepts the largest number of refugees. Directly thereafter comes Sweden, and according to census statistics, it is my hometown that receives most refugees in Sweden.  Many Iraqi refugees have sought shelter in Sodertalje since the start of the war in Iraq. Almost all belong to the Christian minority. Sodertalje accepts approximately five percent of all the Iraqi refugees who come to Europe. To illustrate this even more dramatically, my little town alone, receives more Iraqi refugees than the United States and Canada together.  We did not start the war in Iraq, however we assume a huge responsibility for those people who are affected.  Last week I met with seven Iraqi pupils at a local school. Meena, a girl in fifth grade, had a tear in her eye when she said `` It is nice here in Sweden, but I miss my father.'' Her father is still in Iraq. Another little girl, Meryem, said with an edge to her voice, `` If the war continues, the doors must be open for the refugees.'' All the children I met have relatives left in Iraq. And those children live in homes tormented with fear.  When I asked these children what they wanted to be when they are older, they brightened up and competed with one another to tell me. Renza wanted to become an artist. Steve wanted to become a policeman. Meena said shyly that she wanted to be a doctor. These children, in spite of all they have been through, have not let circumstances diminish their ability to dream of the future. In Sodertalje we face three problems. Firstly our schools and preschools are full; of the town's eight thousand pupils, five hundred are enrolled in the special preparation classes we have for newly arrived refugees. We cannot hire teachers or build schools fast enough to give all these, often highly motivated pupils a good start in their new country.  Secondly there is a lack of living accommodation. A great many of the refugees lodge with relatives or friends. We know of cases of fifteen people sleeping on mattresses in a two room apartment.  And last but not least we have a shortage of job opportunities. A small town cannot possibly produce jobs for a thousand refugees each year. Here the United States could really help Sodertalje. American companies looking to set up businesses or expand in Europe, are most welcome to visit my home town. We need all the job opportunities we can get.  I am in awe of the refugees' ambition and will to make new lives for themselves. Many of those who come to our town are well educated and motivated to start a new life in a new country. We need immigrants if we are to manage the demographic challenges we face, as the number of aging citizens in the western world rises.  Despite the fact that we need immigrants, Sodertalje has become a town that must now say--STOP, STOP, STOP! Do not misunderstand me. We will always help others when we can. We must act when the lives of our brothers and sisters are in danger. It is imperative that we have a humane refugee policy worldwide. Our common agreement, that all people are equal, no matter what color religion or gender must become a reality.  The millions of refugees in the world must be a concern for us all, not just for those areas bordering on the breeding grounds of war, or for a small number of countries and cities such as Sodertalje.  Sodertalje works hard to spread the reception of refugees equally over the whole of Sweden, to all cities and towns. Internationally, we must find a model for an equal and more responsible reception of refugees. We must also have special support for the refugees on site in Iraq, in Jordan and in Syria. Most of all, we must put an end to this and other ongoing wars.  The children I met last week have cousins and friends who are left behind in Iraq. Those children are trying to lead a normal childhood in a land where uneasiness and fear are always present.  I am not a President; I am not an Ambassador; but I know that we must create a new future for the children fleeing from war.  And I know there is no time to lose. Thank you for your attention.

  • Human Rights and Democracy in Belarus off to a Discouraging Start in the New Year

    Madam Speaker, last month, I chaired a Helsinki Commission briefing with a delegation of leading political opposition figures and democratic activists from Belarus. The briefing was entitled, ``The Future Belarus: Democracy or Dictatorship'' and focused on the prospects for change in a country located in the heart of Europe that has Europe's worst track record with respect to human rights and democracy. Unfortunately, developments since the delegation's visit to Washington have been deeply discouraging and do not bode well for Belarus' democratic future. One of the young people who testified at the briefing, 19-year-old Zmitser Fedaruk, spoke eloquently of the dangers that young human rights activists face in Belarus. His words were prophetic, as a few days later, back in Belarus, he was beaten and knocked unconscious by riot policemen, then rushed by ambulance to the hospital. Just last week, the Minsk district prosecutor's office in Minsk refused to open an investigation into Zmitser's beating. A day earlier, my friend Anatoly Lebedka, one of Belarus' staunchest defenders of democratic rights, who also testified before the Commission, was roughed up by Belarusian police as well. It was far from the first time that this leader of the democratic opposition had been beaten up or repressed by the Lukashenka regime. On January 4, the Lukashenka regime banned Anatoly from travelling abroad in what was obviously a politically-motivated decision. Today, Anatoly is in jail serving a 15-day sentence, along with several dozen other pro-democracy and small business advocates who participated in a January 10 protest against restrictions on activities of small businesses. Some of the activists--mostly young people--received injuries during their arrest. Tatyana Tsishkevch, who was severely beaten during her arrest and presented her bloodstained jacket in court, received a 20-day sentence. Arsien Pakhomau, a freelance photo correspondent for ``Nasha Niva'' weekly--one of the very few remaining independent publications in Belarus--was also sentenced to 15 days' administrative arrest. On the day of the protest, a number of websites that cover social and economic affairs in Belarus, such as Charter '97 and Radio Liberty, were partially or fully blocked by the authorities. These most recent repressive actions follow the sentencing of opposition activist Artur Finkevich to 18 months in prison; the arbitrary use of judicial power to put out of business independent newspapers such as ``Novi Chas''; steps to liquidate the opposition Belarusian Communist Party; and the fining of Baptist pastor Yuri Kravchuk for unregistered religious activity. Belarus is the only country in Europe with compulsory registration before religious activity can take place. Unfortunately, the indications in just the first few weeks of this New Year are not encouraging. Lukashenka's presidential administration has recently rejected the opposition's proposal to hold talks on the upcoming 2008 parliamentary elections, refusing an offer by the Belarusian opposition to consider joint proposals on conducting parliamentary elections in accordance with democratic standards. Madam Speaker, as Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission and as someone who has long been involved in the OSCE process to promote security, cooperation, democracy and human rights among the 56 OSCE countries, including Belarus, I am deeply disappointed in the Belarusian Government's continual flaunting of freely undertaken OSCE commitments. It is my strong hope that Mr. Lukashenka will cease the self-imposed isolation of his country--threatening, most recently, to expel U.S. Ambassador Karen Stewart--and will give serious thought to the offers of cooperation that have come from the United States and the European Union if Belarus releases political prisoners and displays respect for basic democratic norms. In the meantime, the Lukashenka regime can be assured that my colleagues and I on the Helsinki Commission are determined to stand by Anatoly Lebedka, Dzmitri Fedaruk and all those in Belarus--young and old--bravely struggling for freedom, democracy and respect for human rights.

  • Torture

    Madam President, as co-chairman of the Helsinki Commission, I chaired a field hearing this week at the University of Maryland College Park campus. The title of that hearing was “Is It Torture Yet?”, the same question I was left with after Attorney General Michael Mukasey's nomination hearings.  The day of the hearings was also International Human Rights Day, which commemorates the adoption of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights nearly 60 years ago. The historic document declares, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” In the Helsinki process, the United States has joined with 55 other participating States to condemn torture. I want to quote one particular provision, because it speaks with such singular clarity. In 1989, in the Vienna Concluding Document, the United States, along with the Soviet Union and all of the other participating States, agreed to “ensure that all individuals in detention or incarceration will be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.” This is the standard, with no exceptions or loopholes, which the United States is obligated to uphold.  I deeply regret that six decades after the adoption of the Universal Declaration, we find it necessary to hold a hearing on torture and, more to the point, I regret that the United States' own policies and practices must be a focus of our consideration.  As a member of the Helsinki Commission, I have long been concerned about the persistence of torture and other forms of abuse in the OSCE region. For example, I am troubled by the pattern of torture in Uzbekistan, a country to which the United States has extradited terror suspects. Radio Free Europe reported that in November alone two individuals died while in the custody of the state. When their bodies were returned to their families, they bore the markings of torture. And, as our hearing began, we were notified that a third individual had died under the same circumstances.  Torture remains a serious problem in a number of OSCE countries, particularly in the Russian region of Chechnya. If the United States is to address these issues credibly, we must get our own house in order.  Unfortunately, U.S. leadership in opposition to torture and other forms of ill-treatment has been undermined by revelations of abuse at Abu Ghraib prison and elsewhere. When Secretary of State Rice met with leading human rights activists in Moscow in October, she was made aware that the American forces' conduct at Abu Ghraib has damaged the United States' credibility on human rights.  As horrific as the revelations of abuse at Abu Ghraib were, our Government's own legal memos on torture may be even more damaging, because they reflect a policy to condone torture and immunize those who may have committed torture.  In this regard, I was deeply disappointed by the unwillingness of Attorney General Mukasey to state clearly and unequivocally that waterboarding is torture. I chaired part of the Attorney General's Judiciary confirmation hearing and found his responses to torture-related questions woefully inadequate. On November 14, I participated in another Judiciary Committee hearing at which an El Salvadoran torture survivor testified. This medical doctor, who can no longer practice surgery because of the torture inflicted upon him, wanted to make one thing very clear: as someone who had been the victim of what his torturers called “the bucket treatment,” he said, waterboarding is torture.  This week, this issue came up again, this time at the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing on Guantanamo. One of the witnesses was BG Thomas Hartman, who was specifically asked whether evidence obtained by waterboarding was admissible in Guantanamo legal proceedings. Like Judge Mukasey, he would not directly answer that question. Nor would he respond directly when asked if a circumstance arose, hypothetically, whether waterboarding by Iranians of a U.S. airman shot down over Iran would be legal according to the Geneva Conventions. In fact, the Geneva Conventions prohibit the use of any coercive interrogation methods to obtain information from a Prisoner of War. I am deeply concerned that the administration's efforts to avoid calling waterboarding what it is, torture, is undermining the interpretation of the Geneva Conventions, which we have relied upon for decades to protect our own service men and women.  The destruction of tapes by the CIA showing the interrogation of terror suspects raises a host of additional concerns. First, these tapes may have documented the use of methods that may very well have violated U.S. law. Second, the tapes may have been destroyed in violation of court orders to preserve exactly these sorts of materials. If the administration is willing to destroy evidence in violation of a valid court order, we have a serious rule-of-law problem. Finally, it is profoundly disturbing that materials formally and explicitly sought by the 9/11 Commission, mandated to investigate one of the worst attacks on American soil in the history of our country, were not turned over by the CIA. The destruction of the CIA tapes should be carefully investigated.  Mr. President, the Congress must act to ensure that abuses by U.S. Government personnel are not committed on the false theory that this somehow makes our country safer.

  • William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2007

    Mr. Speaker, as Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, which has exercised unprecedented leadership in the global fight to combat trafficking in human beings, I rise in support of H.R. 3887, the Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2007.  From our earliest awareness of this cruel phenomenon which enslaves an estimated 27 million victims, the Commission has led in the effort to mobilize nations to implement effective measures to combat human trafficking. My fellow Commissioner and former Chairman of the Commission, Representative Chris Smith is among those who have led the effort to bring an end to this modern day form of slavery, authoring the trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 and its subsequent reauthorizations.  Today, the Commission continues its work to support efforts to combat this global crime within the framework of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Most recently, the Commission conducted an oversight hearing last October 11, to explore the progress made in combating human trafficking and the adequacy of resources dedicated to identifying victims of trafficking for forced labor, an area that we believe would benefit from additional resources and attention.  The reauthorization bill that we are taking action on today marks another important milestone in preventing the inhumane practice of human trafficking, protecting trafficking victims, and prosecuting the criminals that perpetrate these crimes.  In addition to bolstering the resources needed to continue various anti-trafficking programs, H.R. 3887, which I cosponsored, would strengthen mechanisms for fighting human trafficking overseas, through the provision of capacity building support to foreign governments to bolster investigative mechanisms and legal protective frameworks for immigrant populations and migrant workers. Importantly, the measure would also address the transnational nature of human trafficking by providing increased support and protection for refugees and internally displaced populations. This legislation also seeks to improve transparency and evaluation of trafficking programs, and would designate governments that remain on the special watch list for 2 consecutive years among those whose efforts to combat trafficking are inadequate.  This reauthorization bill will improve mechanisms to better identify and protect trafficking victims, while increasing accountability on the part of governments in their anti-trafficking efforts. It takes a comprehensive approach to a gross criminal exploitation, and I urge my colleagues to support the legislation.

  • Introducing Legislation to Honor Theodor Criveanu for Saving Romanian Jews During the Holocaust

    Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to introduce legislation with my colleagues and friends Representatives Dan Burton, Chris Smith, andLinda Sanchez that will properly recognize the selfless efforts to save innocent lives during the Holocaust of Theodor Criveanu and all other righteous individuals.  Non-Jews who sacrificed their lives in an effort to save Jews from their fate at the Nazi's hands are known to the world as the ``Righteous Persons.'' The most renowned among these righteous persons is probably Oscar Schindler. Oscar Schindler should rightly be recognized as the altruistic and extraordinarily courageous non-Jew who saved more Jewish lives from the gas chambers than any other.  But many other brave individuals risked their lives by rescuing Jews during the Holocaust that have still yet to be recognized.  Thousands of these hero's stories have remain untold because the Nazis mercilessly ended their lives. For those that survived the Holocaust and for those that did not, I rise today to honor their heroism and their memory.  In 1963, Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority in Israel, initiated a worldwide project to grant the title of Righteous Among the Nations to individuals who were not Jewish and who risked their lives to rescue and protect Jews and others during the Holocaust. To date, more than 21,000 heroic individuals have been honored as Righteous Among the Nations.  Theodor Criveanu was one of such courageous righteous individuals.  When serving as a reserve officer in the Romanian military, he was assigned the task of presenting military authorities with a list of Jews who would be given work permits to work in the ghetto instead of being deported to Transnistria. Risking his life to defy Nazi orders, Mr. Criveanu secretly issued work permits in numbers that exceeded the work permit quota and to Jews who were not essential to the workforce, saving countless of innocent Jewish lives.  The brave efforts of Mr. Criveanu have not gone unnoticed. On August 8, 2007, Yad Vashem named Theodore Criveanu as Righteous Among the Nations, posthumously honoring him for his courageous work to block the deportation of Romanian Jews to Nazi death camps.  Today I rise to honor these individuals for their bravery and humanity. Mr. Criveanu and other such individuals deserve to be remembered and revered by the United States Congress.

  • Support for the Museum of the History of Polish Jews Act of 2007

    Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to support H. Res. 3320, introduced by my friend and colleague, Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. This bill would authorize the United States to provide $5 million to assist in the development of the permanent collection of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews.  This past May, I had the opportunity to travel to Poland and, while there, met with Jerzy Halbersztadt, the director of the museum, and Ewa Wierzynska, the deputy director. The museum they are helping to establish is truly an historical undertaking and one that deserves the support of the United States.  Warsaw was once home to the largest Jewish community in Europe, and if we are to truly understand what was lost in the Holocaust, we must try to wrap our minds not only around the figure of 6 million, but around the 1,000 years of Polish Jewish life that preceded that tragedy. Poland is not only a place where Jews died, but a place where they lived and flourished. Moreover, it is estimated that 80 percent of all Jews and over nine million Americans trace some of their ancestry to the Polish Jewish community. This museum has the potential to touch the lives of our own citizens in deeply personal ways.  As chairman of the Helsinki Commission, I am heartened by the educational role this museum can play in fulfilling the goals that the OSCE participating States have undertaken in the field of combating anti-Semitism. I believe this museum will contribute to tolerance and mutual respect in Poland, will help counter the broader phenomenon of anti-Semitism in Europe, and will serve as an inspiration to the thousands of visitors who will come every year. The historical record of the Polish Jewish community must be preserved and shared with future generations.  Unfortunately, my own schedule did not permit me to return to Poland for the June 26 groundbreaking ceremony for the museum, which will be located in the heart of the pre-World War II Jewish district and next to the monument to the Jews who resisted the Nazis during the 1943 ghetto uprising. However, I did send a member of the Helsinki Commission staff, who witnessed firsthand the extraordinary turnout for this event. Among those present was the Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv Meir Lau, whose parents were from Poland and who suggested that invited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has denied the Holocaust, be among the first to visit the museum.  I don't know if the Iranian President will accept this invitation, but I have no doubt that many Americans will be among the 500,000 people who are expected to visit the museum on an annual basis. I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this extraordinary museum, with an extraordinary mission.

  • Authorizing Interrogation Techniques

    Mr. CARDIN. Mr. President, I rise today to express my concern regarding the most recent revelations of administration memos effectively authorizing the use of interrogation techniques that most certainly rise to the level of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, if not to the level of torture.  In 2002, senior administration officials prepared a classified memo that sought to provide legal cover for interrogation practices that would clearly violate U.S. and international law. This ``torture memo'' was leaked to the press after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke and, in turn, caused such outrage that it was quickly disavowed by the Justice Department. A new, improved, and sanitized legal memo on interrogation norms was then issued in December 2004.  It now appears, according to a report published by the New York Times on October 4, that the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel subsequently issued two additional legal memos that once again defined torture as ``not torture'' and--in an apparent effort to end run congressional efforts to close loopholes in the existing prohibition against cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment--simply declared that no CIA interrogation practices violated that prohibition.  I would also draw my colleagues' attention to a subsequent, highly troubling report published by the New York Times on October 11 stating that the Director of the CIA, Michael Hayden, has ordered an investigation of the inspector general, John L. Helgerson. The CIA inspector general is known to have undertaken critical examinations of CIA interrogation procedures.  With these latest developments in mind, I would like to share three observations.  First, the revelation that--even while the Abu Ghraib scandal was still being investigated--the administration was issuing additional secret memos authorizing abusive interrogation techniques, stands as the latest blow to the credibility of the United States as a global advocate for human rights and democracy. We simply cannot win hearts and minds around the globe if we are perceived to condone a violation of basic human rights, our own laws, and international law. As cochairman of the Helsinki Commission, I am painfully aware of the extent to which these policies have undermined our nation's reputation, and even our ability to build support for counterterrorism operations worldwide.  Second, these revelations once again draw attention to this administration's breathtaking interpretation of the scope of executive power. In fact, the 2002 "torture memo'' actually consisted of two parts. One part effectively sought to define torture as "not torture.'' The second part addressed the authority of the President to authorize torture. In essence, that part of the memo described the Presidency--when the President is acting as Commander in Chief--as virtually unrestrained by the Congress, the Constitution, or the courts. The Justice Department's renunciation of the 2002 torture memo only appeared to renounce the first part of that memo.  Accordingly, during the January 2005 confirmation hearing for Attorney General Gonzalez, he was repeatedly questioned regarding his views on the scope of Presidential authority--and he repeatedly stonewalled. His refusal to answer those questions, coupled with the President's signing statements attached to the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act and the 2006 Military Commissions Act and most recent revelations of additional torture memos, suggest that President Bush does believe himself to be beyond or above the law.  Many retired military leaders have argued that abusive interrogation techniques undermine America's moral authority, fuel jihadist recruitment, and weaken international norms that have protected American service men and women for decades. Moreover, a now declassified report issued by the Government's Intelligence Science Board has concluded there is no scientific evidence that coercive interrogation methods even produces good intelligence. And we now know that the use of these techniques has, in actual cases, produced false or misleading intelligence.  Sadly, one of the greatest tragedies of the President's misguided policies on torture is this: this administration's justification of abusive techniques has not made us any safer.

  • Torture Policies Undercut U.S. Leadership on Human Rights, Democracy, and the Rule of Law

    Mr. Hastings of Florida. Madam Speaker, as Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, I would like to draw the attention of my colleagues to two events last week that, taken together, illustrate the damaging effect that this administration's policies have had on America's credibility as a global leader on human rights, democracy and the rule of law.  First of all, on Friday, the 56 OSCE participating States concluded their annual Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw, Poland. This meeting is Europe's largest regional human rights forum where governments and nongovernmental organizations gather to take stock of how countries are implementing the commitments they have undertaken in the Helsinki process relating to human rights and democracy. As such, this meeting provides an important opportunity for the United States to raise and express concern about serious instances of noncompliance and negative trends in the expansive OSCE region stretching from Vancouver to Vladivostok.  Separately, on Thursday of last week--just as the Warsaw meeting was drawing to a close--the New York Times ran an article revealing the existence of two classified legal memos authorizing the use of interrogation techniques that, to many reasonable minds, rise to the level of torture, or at least cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment--both categories of treatment prohibited under the United Nations Convention Against Torture, to which the United States is a party. These memos have already been dubbed by some as "torture memo 2.0'' and "torture memo 3.0,'' and were reportedly authored by Steven G. Bradbury, who has headed the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel since 2005.  Madam Speaker, 3 years ago the world was shocked--and the United States was shamed--by pictures showing detainees standing on boxes with hoods over their heads and electrical wires attached to their fingers. But perhaps even more shocking and more shameful was the surfacing of the so-called "torture memo,'' adopted by the Department of Justice in 2002 and leaked to the public in 2004. The very existence of such a memo was rightly and widely understood to mean that abuses did not just occur by rogue elements or as an aberration, but stemmed from a government policy to effectively authorize the use of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The 2002 memo was so scandalous that shortly after it was leaked, it was disavowed by the Department of Justice itself.  For many people, the existence of "torture memo 2.0'' and "torture memo 3.0'' will not come as a surprise but rather as a confirmation of what they suspected to be the case. Certainly, when one looks at the statements issued by the President when he signed into law the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act and the 2006 Military Commissions Act, there was every indication that he considered himself in no way bound by those laws as passed by Congress.  There are, of course, enormous implications for the United States when the President considers himself beyond the reach of the Congress and outside the scope of the Constitution. The President's policies on torture have seriously undercut American credibility on the very issues this administration purports to hold dear--human rights and democracy promotion.  Can you imagine being at a meeting--like the one that has just concluded in Warsaw--where the United States is supposed to express its concern about a whole range of human rights issues, including the issue of protecting human rights while combating terrorism, when this latest revelation about this administration's torture policies hits the front pages?  Regrettably, American credibility as an advocate for human rights and democracy has continued in free fall in the face of this latest revelation and attendant implausible denials. Beyond the victims of abuse themselves, U.S. interests are being seriously undermined, including the campaign to win hearts and minds around the globe. Not surprisingly, the administration's dissembling denials cannot repair the damage that has been done. It will take considerable time to restore the good name of our country--time, and concrete action by this body, In such circumstances, actions speak louder than words, and two steps must be taken to help restore America's tarnished reputation, help clear out the thicket of legal cases created by the President's disastrous policies, and position the United States to build more effective alliances in our counterterrorism operations. First, I urge my colleagues to restore habeas corpus--and the sooner, the better. The Military Commissions Act of 2006 was a travesty of justice, but perhaps no part of that legislation departed so sharply from our legal heritage as the decision to deny individuals the most basic right recognized since the Magna Carta: the right to challenge their detention. If we are to convince the world that we do not routinely torture terrorism suspects, providing these detainees one of the most basic legal safeguards is a good place to start.  Second, we must close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay--a measure I called for at a hearing on Guantanamo I chaired in June. To this end, the United States should release or transfer detainees elsewhere and, for those whom we believe we must hold and try, detainees should be transferred to the United States. Terror suspects can be tried by our Federal courts; they might be tried by military commissions under the Uniform Code of Military Justice; I'd even consider the establishment of special domestic terror courts, as in Spain. But it is time for the President to listen to his own senior officials, including Secretaries Gates and Rice, and close the GTMO camp. Madam Speaker, while these two steps are not the only ones necessary to fully restore America's credibility and respect for the values we proclaim abroad, they would represent an important start. It is time for this great country to resume its rightful leadership role on human rights, democracy and rule of law, but first, it will need to lead by example.

  • Introduction of Resolution Congratulating the Ukrainian People on the September 30, 2007, Parliamentary Elections

    Madam Speaker, as Chairman of the Helsinki Commission I rise to introduce a resolution congratulating the Ukrainian people for the holding of free, fair and transparent  parliamentary elections on September 30, 2007. These elections were held in a peaceful manner consistent with Ukraine's democratic values, and in keeping with that nation's commitments as a participating State of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. While there were some shortcomings, these elections stand in contrast to the vast majority of elections that have taken place in the countries of the former Soviet Union over the course of the last 15 years. Tone Tingsgaard, the Special Coordinator of the short-term election observers for the International Election Observation Mission (IEOM) and Vice President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, stated that these elections were conducted ``in a positive and professional manner.'' The OSCE-led IEOM's preliminary statement concluded that the elections confirmed an open and competitive environment for the conduct of the election process and that freedom of assembly and expression were respected. IEOM observers assessed the voting process as good or very good in 98 percent of the nearly 3,000 polling stations visited, notwithstanding some shortcomings, notably with respect to the quality of voter lists, and the vote count was assessed as good or very good in 94 percent of the IEOM reports. These pre-term elections did not come about easily, coming on the heels of a political crisis that engulfed Ukraine's president, prime minister, and parliament for several months earlier this year. These  political disputes were rooted in weak constitutional delineations of the powers of the president and prime minister. After weeks of tense standoff, however, agreement was reached on May 27 stipulating new parliamentary elections for September 30. Now that the elections have concluded, it is my hope that Ukraine's political leaders will form a government reflecting the will of the Ukrainian people as expressed by the results of the elections; a government that advances political stability and democratic development. It is my hope, too, that the new parliament and government will focus on the constitutional framework, especially the question of separation of powers, in order to avoid the  political uncertainty that we witnessed earlier this year. Ukraine also needs to further undertake the hard work of strengthening the rule of law, including an independent judiciary, and fighting corruption.  Madam Speaker, the conduct of these elections is a testament to the Ukrainian people's determined path towards the consolidation of democracy as Ukraine advances its integration with the Euro-Atlantic  community. As such, Ukraine serves as a model for the post-Soviet countries, all too many of which have unfortunately retreated to heavy- handed authoritarianism. This House can pride itself on having been a staunch supporter of freedom, human rights and democracy in Ukraine for many years--even before the restoration of Ukraine's independence in 1991. As this resolution underscores, it is important to continue our efforts to the further development of a democratic system in Ukraine based on the rule of law, a free market economy, and consolidation of Ukraine's security and sovereignty. I urge my colleagues to support this timely resolution.

  • Introducing the Iraqi Refugee and Internally Displaced Persons Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement, and Security Act of 2007

    Madam Speaker, I rise today to introduce a vital piece of legislation to raise awareness of the impending humanitarian crisis and security breakdown as a result of the mass influx of Iraqi refugees into neighboring countries, and the growing internally displaced population in Iraq. Our legislation addresses this issue by increasing directed accountable assistance to these populations and their host countries, increasing border security, facilitating the resettlement of Iraqis at risk and broadening domestic relocation assistance. Madam Speaker, whether you agree or disagree with U.S. policy in Iraq, one thing is crystal clear, we have a humanitarian crisis manifesting in the region that cannot be ignored. Let's examine the facts. Iraqis are now the third-largest displaced population in the world and the fastest-growing refugee population globally. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, estimates that there are some 2.2 million Iraqis displaced internally and at least another 2 million Iraqis have sought refuge in neighboring countries. Many of these Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons lack adequate food, shelter and other basic services. Further, the massive flow of refugees into neighboring countries is straining the social, economic, and security fabric of the host nations and threatens to destabilize the entire Middle East region. My own efforts to address this looming calamity began in August when I wrote to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice highlighting the need for the United States to address this devastating situation with strong financial support, either through bilateral assistance or funding for international organizations that are working directly with the refugee and internally displaced populations. In response to my letter, on September 7, 2007, I, along with Helsinki Commission Cochairman Senator BENJAMIN L. CARDIN (D-MD) and Helsinki Commissioner Congressman JOSEPH R. PITTS (R-PA), received a briefing by Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration, PRM, Ellen Sauerbrey, who had recently returned from the region. It was clear from our discussion that while the United States has been working to address this grave situation, not nearly enough is being done. The United States has a moral obligation to make a serious commitment to help Iraqi refugees and internally displaced populations while meeting our commitment to resettle Iraqi refugees referred by the UNHCR. It is precisely for these reasons that I decided to take swift action and address this worsening crisis with comprehensive legislation.  Among the legislation's highlights are an authorization of $700 million for each fiscal year beginning in 2008 through 2010 for the relief of Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons, an increase of direct accountable bilateral assistance and/or funding for international aid organizations and nongovernmental organizations working in the host countries and an authorization of $500 million to increase border security in Jordan. Additionally, this legislation facilitates the resettlement of Iraqis employed by our government, American companies, and nongovernmental organizations into the United States, broadens domestic relocation assistance to include housing credits, cultural counseling, meetings with social workers, advice on how to work with the schools and employment systems, and requires the Department of State to create a program in the U.S. for English as a second language, vocational, computer training, employment services and some counseling for all Iraqi nationals immigrating to the United States under a Special Immigrant Visa. Finally this legislation urges increased cooperation between the United States Government and the international community to address this crisis. In passing this legislation, Congress can reaffirm its commitment to Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons. Our attention to this crisis could not be more important at this time for the sake of the new Iraq and Middle East regional stability. I urge my colleagues to support this resolution and ask for its expeditious consideration.

  • The Passing of Congressman Charles Vanik

    Madam Speaker, just before Congress returned to session this week, our Nation lost a gentleman who served with distinction in this body for 26 years and whose name became forever associated with the human rights struggle in the former Soviet Union. Congressman Charles Vanik served his constituents of the Cleveland, OH, area from 1955 to 1981. In 1968, he voluntarily gave up his seat in a district that had become primarily African-American to allow my good friend and our former colleague, Mr. Louis Stokes, an opportunity to serve in the Congress. It says something for Mr. Vanik's reputation as a conscientious and hard-working Member that he could switch to a nearby district, defeat a long-time incumbent of the other major party, and return to Congress. I did not know Mr. Vanik personally, but as Chairman of the Helsinki Commission, I am particularly familiar with his contribution to the struggle to allow Soviet Jews to leave the Soviet Union and emigrate to Israel. In the early 1970s, Soviet Jews who wished to emigrate to Israel faced government harassment and even prison terms in one of the many labor camps stretched along the eleven time zones of the Soviet Union. This issue became especially acute in 1972 when the Soviet government announced it would level an onerous ``education tax'' on Soviet Jews who wished to emigrate. As Chairman of the Subcommittee on Trade of the House Ways and Means Committee, Mr. Vanik stepped up to sponsor an amendment to the Trade Reform Bill of 1974 introduced by Senator Henry Jackson of Washington State. This amendment linked awarding Most Favored Nation trade status to a nation's record on unhindered emigration for its citizens. President Nixon and Mr. Kissinger didn't like it, but it was a law whose time had come. In the years that followed its passage, through detente and the tense days of United States-Soviet relations in the early 1980s, the Jackson-Vanik Amendment became a powerful symbol of the Congress' determination to see that the Soviet Union lived up to the Helsinki Accords. Today, Madam Speaker, the Cold War is over, the Soviet Union is happily no more, Jewish citizens of Russia, the successor state to the Soviet Union, are free to emigrate to Israel or any other nation that  will grant an entry visa.  Ironically, Congress has not yet fully "graduated'' Russia from the provisions of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment. I do hope that, regardless of the many difficulties in relations with Russia that we are now experiencing, we will be able to do so in the near future. I am sure Chairman Vanik would agree with me. Madam Speaker, although I was not acquainted with Chairman Vanik, I know that he left a legacy of deep respect when he retired from this august body. May we all serve our constituents, our Nation, and all those with whom we share this planet as conscientiously as he did. 

  • Chairman Hastings' Amendment to HR 3221

    Amendment No. 20 offered by Mr. Hastings of Florida: At the end of subtitle A of title II of the bill, insert the following:  SEC. 2104. REPORT ON PROGRESS MADE IN PROMOTING TRANSPARENCY IN EXTRACTIVE INDUSTRIES RESOURCE PAYMENTS.  (a) Purpose.--The purpose of this section is to--  (1) ensure greater United States energy security by combating corruption in the governments of foreign countries that receive revenues from the sale of their natural resources, and  (2) enhance the development of democracy and increase political and economic stability in such resource-rich foreign countries.  (b) Findings.--Congress makes the following findings:  (1) The United States is the world's largest consumer of oil. The United States accounts for 25 percent of global daily oil demand--despite having less than 3 percent of the world's proven reserves.  (2) 6 of the top 10 suppliers of United States crude oil imports rank in the bottom third of the world's most corrupt countries, according to Transparency International.  (3) Corrupt and non-transparent foreign governments have a much higher risk of instability and violent unrest, often leading to disruptions of energy supplies. In addition, the citizens of such countries often remain impoverished despite significant resource wealth.  (4) Oil is a fungible commodity. Therefore supply disruptions due to political instability in other parts of the world affect United States domestic price and supply regardless of the source of supply.  (5) Transparency in extractive revenue transactions is important to decreasing corruption and increasing energy security.  (6) The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) serves to improve investment climates through the audited disclosure of revenue payments.  (c) Statement of Policy.--It is the policy of the United States--  (1) to increase energy security by decreasing energy reliance on corrupt foreign governments;  (2) to promote global energy security through promotion of programs such as EITI that seek to instill transparency and accountability into extractive industries resource payments.  (d) Sense of Congress.--It is the sense of Congress that the United States should further global energy security and promote democratic development in resource-rich foreign countries by--  (1) encouraging further participation in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) by eligible  countries and companies;  (2) promoting the efficacy of the EITI program by ensuring a robust and candid review mechanism;  (3) establishing a domestic reporting requirement for all companies that purchase natural resources from or make payments to government officials or entities connected with the extraction of such resources so that citizens can monitor expenditures by government officials to ensure accountability for illicit diversion and wasteful use of revenues received;  and  (4) seeking to establish an international reporting requirement similar to the reporting requirement described in paragraph (3) in order to ensure that all international companies and foreign countries are competing and cooperating on a level playing field.  (e) Report.--  (1) Report required.--Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, and annually thereafter, the Secretary of State shall submit to Congress a report on progress made in promoting transparency in extractive industries resource payments.  (2) Matters to be included.--The report required by paragraph (1) shall include a detailed description of United States participation in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), bilateral and multilateral diplomatic efforts to further participation in the EITI, and other United States initiatives to strengthen energy security, deter energy kleptocracy, and promote transparency in the extractive industries.  The Acting CHAIRMAN. Pursuant to House Resolution 615, the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Hastings) and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Florida.  Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.  (Mr. HASTINGS of Florida asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)  Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Mr. Chairman, my amendment is aimed at combating corruption in energy-exporting countries and promoting a global energy security. In my capacity as chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, I have held a series of hearings on the issue of global energy security. I offer this amendment today as a culmination of findings from those hearings.  This amendment encourages international participation in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and similar efforts. This amendment will increase the accountability of where our energy comes from by urging international disclosure of energy transactions and requiring the Secretary of State to submit an annual report on EITI compliance. It also states that it is the power of the United States to decrease reliance, energy reliance on corrupt foreign governments. I thank Chairmen Lantos and Dingell and my colleagues of the U.S. Helsinki Commission and the staff of the Helsinki Commission, and mine, for their anticipated support. I urge my colleagues to vote in favor of this amendment and the underlying legislation.  Mr. Chairman, I rise today to offer an amendment to the H.R. 3221, the New Direction for Energy Independence, National Security, and Consumer Protection Act. The purpose of this amendment is two-fold: to combat corruption in energy-exporting countries and to promote democracy and the rule of law in these countries as well. In my capacity as Chairman of the bipartisan, bicameral Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), I have held a series of hearings on the issue of global energy security in the 110th Congress. The topics of those hearings have spanned the vast diversity energy concerns of the 56 CSCE member nations. I offer this amendment today as a culmination of findings from those hearings. The United States is the world's largest consumer of oil, accounting for 25 percent of global daily oil demand, despite having less than 3 percent of the world's proven reserves. As a result, we are increasingly dependent on foreign sources of energy. Mr. Chairman, unfortunately, the countries that the U.S. has become dependent on for that energy are not reliable politically. In fact, only two of the world's top 10 exporters, Norway and Mexico, are established democracies. The non-democratic exporting countries face political instability, which pose a serious threat to the supply and transit of the oil and gas that America runs on. While it is imperative that we work to limit our dependence on foreign oil and change the dynamic of supply and demand, it is just as important to create more stable and reliable sources of energy. As the National Petroleum Council recently reported, ``There can be no U.S. energy security without global energy security.''  Mr. Chairman, my amendment meets our objective of global energy security by supporting international participation in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and similar efforts. This amendment also urges these countries to establish domestic reporting requirements for all companies that purchase natural resources or make payments connected with the extraction of such resources to increase the accessibility of these transactions for accountable monitoring. My amendment further requires that the Secretary of State submit to the Congress an annual report which details the United States' own participation in the Extractive Industries transparency Initiative, as well as our bilateral and multilateral diplomatic efforts to further global participation in EITI. This annual report would also entail other U.S. initiatives to strengthen energy security, deter energy kleptocracy, and promote transparency in the extractive industries. Finally, my amendment states that it is the energy policy of the United States ``to increase energy security by decreasing energy reliance on corrupt foreign governments.'' Mr. Chairman, in order to have a comprehensive energy security policy for the nation, we must develop a complete strategy to improve transparency and accountability in oil-exporting states. My amendment will do just that.

  • Introductory Statement for the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Resolution

    Madam Speaker, as Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, otherwise known as the Helsinki Commission, I rise to introduce a resolution which expresses the concern of this body regarding the Russian Federation's suspension of implementation of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE). Russia's declared suspension of the CFE on last July 14 is troubling to the countries that are parties to the treaty because it may lead to instability in the security situation in Europe.  NATO and the former Warsaw Pact countries ratified the CFE in 1990, under the auspices of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, predecessor of the current Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The CFE has played a major role in European security in the post-Cold War era. The treaty set broad limits on key categories of conventional military equipment in Europe and mandated the destruction of excess weaponry. Under its provisions, over 60,000 pieces of combat material have been destroyed or removed from the arsenals of signatory states, under a rigorous, but mutually acceptable, transparency regime. In sum, it established parity, transparency, and stability among the conventional military forces and equipment in Europe.  The CFE was amended in 1999 to account for the dissolution of the former Soviet Union and the reality that several Warsaw Pact countries had become NATO members. However, NATO members have not yet ratified the amended treaty because Russia has failed to fulfill related commitments to withdraw its troops and weaponry from the territories of Moldova and Georgia, where they I are stationed against the wishes of those governments.  Among other reasons, Russia justified its suspension of the CFE on the basis that the U.S. plans to construct missile defence facilities in Eastern Europe, NATO member states refuse to ratify the 1999 CFE ``Adaptation Agreement,'' and what Moscow sees as further encroachment by NATO toward Russia's border.  Madam Speaker, this resolution is not intended to discount Russia's concerns in the area of national security. However, Russia's actions over the past few months, combined with this latest on the CFE, prompts the question: How much of Russia's decision to suspend the CFE was based on genuine security concerns, and how much of the decision was designed to project President Putin and his United Party as ``tough on the West'' in the face of upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections?  We believe that Russia's proposed ``moratorium'' on CFE compliance is a regrettable step that may needlessly increase tensions in Europe. I am introducing this ``sense of the House'' resolution urging the Government of the Russian Federation to reconsider its intention to suspend CFE implementation and to engage in dialogue with the other CFE signatory states to resolve outstanding problems and establish a foundation for the eventual implementation of the above-mentioned Adaptation Agreement to the CFE Treaty of 1999. In other words, we urge Russia to reconsider its decision and behave more responsibly. I urge my colleagues to support this timely resolution as a demonstration of this body's concern for European security.

  • Passing of Gennadi Kryuchkov

    Madam Speaker, on July 14, 2007, the Russian Federation lost one of its great leaders, although I am certain he would steadfastly reject such a characterization of himself. He certainly wasn’t a famous political figure, or a wealthy philanthropist, or a brilliant scientist, and his name was rarely found on the pages of the major media. Gennadi Kryuchkov’s leadership was in the spiritual realm. He was a courageous and principled leader of the unregistered Evangelical Baptist Church in the Soviet Union in the days when merely sharing one’s religious faith with a neighbor could lead to a ‘‘discussion’’ at the local police station or the feared KGB office, and actively preaching the Gospel without permission from the government was usually good for a ticket to one of the many forced labor camps that comprised the infamous Gulag. Born in 1926, Gennadi Kryuchkov came to faith in 1951, and became active in an unregistered congregation of Baptist believers. In 1960, when he felt the officially registered Baptist organization had too deeply compromised itself with Soviet authorities by submitting to repressive new regulations, he became one of the leaders of the Initsiativniki, the unregistered and essentially underground network of congregations that defied Caesar’s intrusion into the spiritual realm. Gennadi Kryuchkov became president of the underground church council and the late Georgi Vins was chosen as secretary. In May 1965, Pastor Kryuchkov and Pastor Vins led an open march on Communist Party headquarters in Moscow to protest government restrictions on believers in the Soviet Union. According to church council statistics, by 1972 the unregistered or ‘‘reform’’ Baptist church numbered around 450 congregations and 18,000 members. Another reputable source reported in the mid-1980s that there were 2,000 reform Baptist congregations with approximately 70,000 adult members. I would add parenthetically that in April 1979 Georgi Vins and four other Soviet dissidents were expelled from the Soviet Union in exchange for two convicted Soviet spies. In August 1985, the Helsinki Commission, of which I am honored to serve currently as Chairman, heard Pastor Vins’ dramatic testimony on the plight of the unregistered Baptist church at Congressional hearings in Buffalo, New York, devoted to the subject of Soviet forced labor practices. Meanwhile, as a result of his determination to preserve the freedom to worship without state interference, Pastor Kryuchkov was arrested and sentenced to three years in labor camp from 1966 to 1969. In 1970, under threat of continued persecution, he went into hiding and spent 20 years working underground, preaching to fellow believers in clandestine gatherings, publishing ‘‘illegal’’ religious literature, and staying one step ahead of the KGB. Only when the chains of religious repression in the Soviet Union were cast off as a result of the new thinking that characterized the government of Communist Party General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, was Pastor Kryuchkov able to emerge from the shadows and return to his family and loved ones in the Tula Oblast, still fervently preaching the Scriptures and standing fast for separation of church and state. Madam Speaker, like the Soviet Union itself, the days of cruel religious persecution and militant atheism in Russia are pretty much a thing of the past. But let us not forget the courage and persistence of church leaders like Gennadi Kryuchkov, who, like the ‘‘Remnant’’ of Old Testament times, kept the flame of faith of burning during the dark days of persecution.

  • Introduction of Ukraine Elections Resolution

    Madam Speaker, as Chairman of the Helsinki Commission I rise to introduce a concurrent resolution which addresses the current political uncertainty in Ukraine, a country of strategic importance to the United States. My resolution urges all sides to abide by the agreement signed by Ukraine's leadership on May 27th, providing for a new round of parliamentary elections to be held on September 30th, and encouraging the holding of these elections in a free, fair and transparent manner in keeping with Ukraine's commitments as a participating State of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.  I have just returned from Ukraine which hosted the 16th annual Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE. While in Kyiv, I met with President Yushchenko and other prominent Ukrainian officials. My colleagues and I received assurances from Kyiv that Ukraine would not backtrack on the path to political reform and good governance.  Ukraine's current political conflict is the result of the ongoing power struggle that President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich have been engaged in since Yanukovich became Prime Minister last August. Rooted in hastily conceived constitutional reforms, the ongoing power struggle threatens to undermine Ukraine's hard-fought and substantial democratic gains, especially those won since the 2004 Orange Revolution.  On April 2nd, President Yushchenko issued a decree dissolving the Verkhovna Rada, the Ukrainian parliament, asserting that the Prime Minister was attempting to monopolize power by forming a veto-proof parliamentary majority through illegal means, and called for new parliamentary elections. The parliament refused to disband and questioned the legality of the presidential decree. After several weeks of tension and standoff, violence was averted and an agreement was reached: President Yushchenko, Prime Minister Yanukovich and Parliamentary Speaker Moroz came together in support of holding pre- term parliamentary elections at the end of September.  Madam Speaker, it is important to recognize that Ukraine has made genuine democratic gains since the Orange Revolution. The December 2004 presidential vote was hailed as a stirring example of the triumph of peaceful protest and democratic ideals. Just over a year ago, as head of the OSCE-led International Election Observation Mission to Ukraine, I was pleased to declare that country's parliamentary elections were also free and fair. I am pleased that Ukraine has once again invited  the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly to observe the September 30 elections. Moreover, Ukraine for the last two years has been designated by Freedom House as a ``free'' country, in contrast to the ``partly free'' assessment it held during its first 13 years of independence.  Nevertheless, democratic institutions and the rule of law in Ukraine are still emerging and lacking in their ability to safeguard democratic gains. It is this fragility, especially the lack of constitutional  clarity in delineating the separation of powers that made it possible for the power struggle to ripen into a full-blown political crisis in recent months. However, it is heartening to see that more serious  turmoil was averted through careful and constructive dialogue and capped by an agreement involving the country's leading political figures.  First and foremost, my resolution calls for the leadership and political parties of Ukraine to abide by the May 27th agreement and conduct elections as scheduled for September 30th. The dispute between the president and prime minister must be resolved in a manner consistent with Ukraine's democratic values and national interest, and in keeping with its OSCE commitments.  Madam Speaker, prolonged political uncertainties regarding the government's delineation of powers is clearly not in Ukraine's interest, and that nation's political leaders need to stand together in support of free, fair and transparent elections as a way out of the current impasse. While democratic elections will not, in and of themselves, resolve all of the challenges facing Ukraine in strengthening the rule of law and delineating power among the branches of government, they are a critical stepping-stone in Ukraine's democratic consolidation and should serve as a further testament of Ukraine's commitment to a democratic future.  As this resolution underscores, Congress has been a staunch supporter of the development of democracy and respect for human rights and the rule of law in Ukraine since the restoration of that nation's independence in 1991. The consolidation of democracy and the rule of law in Ukraine will further strengthen that country's independence and sovereignty, enhancing Ukraine's aspirations for full integration with the West and serving as a positive model for other former Soviet countries. I urge my colleagues to support this timely resolution as a demonstration of Congress's interest, concern, and support for the Ukrainian people.

  • In Praise of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, Poland

    Madam Speaker, I rise today to express my support for the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, Poland.  Last month, I had the opportunity to travel to Poland, and I was deeply inspired by my meeting with Jerzy Halbersztadt, the Executive Director of the Museum, and Ewa Wierzynska, the Deputy Director. I commend them for their extraordinary hard work and vision in bringing this Museum to life. A groundbreaking ceremony for the Museum, located in the heart of the pre-World War II Jewish district, will be held on June 26th. I also commend the municipality of Warsaw and the Government of Poland for supporting the establishment of this important institution.  Jews arrived in the medieval Kingdom of Poland almost one thousand years ago, as they escaped persecution in neighboring countries. Indeed, the Hebrew word for Poland is “Polin,” which some translate as “here you shall rest.” But while everyone in Poland learns about the Holocaust, many people know little about the lives of the Jews before they met their death in concentration camps of Nazi occupiers. This rich history spanning a thousand years must be reclaimed. Indeed, understanding the travesty of the Holocaust requires a full understanding of what was destroyed.  Accordingly, the Museum of the History of Polish Jews will commemorate the three million Polish Jews who died in World War II. It will also celebrate the nearly one thousand years of proud Jewish culture in Poland.  In addition, the Museum of the History of Polish Jews will enhance understanding of Jewish history and cultural roots at a time when anti-Semitism is growing throughout Europe. As a former President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and now as Chairman of the Helsinki Commission, I am heartened by the educational role in this Museum can play in fulfilling the goals that the OSCE participating States have undertaken in the field of combating anti-Semitism.  This Museum has been some years in coming. In 1996, Yeshayahu Weinberg, a founding director of Tel Aviv’s Diaspora Museum and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, created an international team of experts with the goal of establishing a Museum to display and preserve artifacts which showcase the extensive culture of the Jewish people in Poland. In 1997, the Warsaw City Council donated 13,000 square meters of land for the Museum of the History of Polish Jews inside the old Jewish Quarter and opposite the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising Memorial. In 2005, an international architectural competition selected a Finnish firm to design the building housing the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. The astounding architecture remarkably represents the parting of the Red Sea through ingenious use of mortar, steel and space.  Approximately 500,000 visitors are anticipated to visit the museum each year. Visitors will take a virtual journey through a world where Jews experienced not only persecution and poverty but perseverance and success. If all goes as planned, the museum will open in 2009 with initial costs funded primarily by the governments of Poland and Germany, and through private donations from Jewish communities around the world.  Madam Speaker, it is estimated that eighty percent of all Jews and over 9 million Americans trace some of their ancestry to the Polish Jewish community. This museum has the potential to touch the lives of our own citizens in deeply personal ways. I look forward to visiting it myself.

  • Support for an Independent and Democratic Kosovo

    Madam Speaker, I have just returned from official travel as Chairman of the Helsinki Commission to several locations in Europe and the Middle East. One stop was Kosovo, which is presently high on the international agenda. As we all know, the Special Envoy for the UN Secretary-General, former Finnish President Maarti Ahtisaari, has submitted a comprehensive proposal for settling the status of Kosovo. If adopted, the proposal would end the eight years of limbo in which Kosovo has found itself since the NATO intervention ended a long period of brutality and repression by Serbian authorities under the leadership of Slobodan Milosevic. Nevertheless, some countries represented on the UN Security Council have problems with the Ahtisaari plan, and Russian opposition, based at least in part on issues having little if anything to do with Kosovo and the Balkans, would doom action at the United Nations. Last week's G-8 summit failed to break the impasse within the international community. During my stay in Kosovo, I was thoroughly briefed by the U.S. Office in Pristina, led by Tina Kaidanow, as well as by Brigadier General Douglas Earhart of the 29th Infantry Division, who commands U.S. forces in Kosovo as well as multinational task force located in the southeast portion of Kosovo. The head of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo, German Ambassador Werner Wnendt, provided the perspective of one of the international missions in the field. I also had the opportunity to meet the Kosovo Prime Minister, the Minister for Communities and Returns and representatives of the Kosovo ``Unity Team.'' I traveled to Mitrovica where I also met representatives of the Serb community, and I visited areas at different locations where housing has been built to accommodate the return of those Serbs and Roma displaced by violence. Based on my observations, I support the Ahtisaari proposal. It provides for independence for Kosovo, which I believe can be justified on grounds of what happened in Kosovo under Serbian rule as well as the right of self-determination, a right included in the Helsinki Final Act. The overwhelming majority of the people of Kosovo want independence, and the United Nations made it a credible possibility in Security Council Resolution 1244, adopted at the end of the Kosovo conflict in 1999.  At the same time, and perhaps more important, the Ahtisaari proposal contains provisions regarding the decentralization of powers to Serb- majority municipalities, numerous human rights protections for ethnic communities, and the protection of religious and cultural heritage sites so important to the Serb community. If implemented, these provisions offer a good possibility for the Serb and other non-Albanian communities to survive in what would be a multi-ethnic Kosovo. Independence would be supervised by the international community, to ensure both a smooth transfer of authority and full implementation of the proposal. As Chairman of the Helsinki Commission, I remain naturally concerned about the human rights situation in Kosovo. My priority is a Kosovo where human rights and fundamental freedoms are respected, and where democracy, tolerance and the rule of law are established, regardless of the course or outcome of deliberations on Kosovo's status. Such a Kosovo does not yet exist; many problems remain. I do believe, however, that in a situation where no answers are easily found the Ahtisaari plan has the best potential to achieve these goals, and I will work to ensure that the Helsinki Commission encourages their achievement even after status is determined.  I wish to conclude my remarks, Madam Speaker, by announcing my intention to cosponsor House Resolution 309, expressing the sense of the House that the United States should support independence for Kosovo. Some of the concerns expressed in an alternative piece of legislation, House Resolution 445, are ones that I share, but continued delay on this issue helps nobody on the ground. The Ahtisaari proposal, in addition to addressing status, provides a means for securing the return and sustainability of the Serb and other ethnic communities in Kosovo, and I believe the people of the region would be best served by trying to make its provisions a reality.

  • Expressing condolences for the victims of the mining accident in Novokuznetsk, Russia

    BODY:  Madam Speaker, I rise today to express my condolences over the terrible mining accident that took place earlier today near the Russian city of Novokuznetsk in Siberia. According to news reports, as many as 38 people may have been killed and still others injured in a methane gas explosion at the Yubileinaya coal mine. This is a terrible and sad accident.  Words alone cannot adequately convey my sympathy over this tragic accident. Coal mining is a difficult and dangerous job often done by the economically disadvantaged and accidents such as these only make that challenging way of life harder. Indeed, we Americans are, unfortunately, no stranger to mining accidents.  Just this morning the Helsinki Commission held a hearing on Russia. Our hearts and prayers go out to all those Russians affected by this tragedy and we hope that those who remain trapped are recovered soon and alive. 

  • Introduction of Resolution on Ukraine Political Crisis

    Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Madam Speaker, I rise to introduce a concurrent resolution which addresses the current political crisis in Ukraine, a country of strategic importance to the United States. My resolution urges all sides to the ongoing impasse to act responsibly and use dialogue to resolve the crisis and ensure a free and democratic system in Ukraine based on the rule of law. I am pleased that Rep. KAPTUR, a co-chair of the Ukrainian American Caucus, has joined me as original cosponsor. Ukraine's current political conflict is the result of the ongoing power struggle that President Victor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Victor Yanukovich have now been engaged in since Yanukovich became Prime Minister last August. This power struggle, rooted in hastily conceived constitutional reforms, threatens to undermine Ukraine's hard-fought and substantial democratic gains, especially those won since the 2004 Orange Revolution. Exactly 2 weeks ago today, President Yushchenko issued a decree dissolving parliament, asserting that the Prime Minister was attempting to monopolize power, and called for new parliamentary elections for May 27. Parliament has refused to disband and questions the legality of the presidential decree. Ukraine's Constitutional Court is to rule on the legality of the decree and both sides have agreed to abide by the Court's decision. Unfortunately, some of the Court's judges have already complained of threats and pressure, especially from Yanukovich's supporters. Clearly, this is unacceptable and steps have been taken to protect the judges. Madam Speaker, it is important to note that Ukraine has made real democratic gains since the Orange Revolution. A year ago, as President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, I had the privilege of leading the OSCE-Ied International Election Observation Mission to Ukraine's parliamentary elections and the pleasure and profound satisfaction of pronouncing them free and fair. Also, in contrast to the first 13 years of its independence, Ukraine in now designated by Freedom House as a ``free'' country, and not merely ``partly free.'' Nevertheless, despite the progress, there have been missed opportunities and some of the promises of that historic revolution have gone unfulfilled. Democratic institutions and the rule of law in Ukraine are still emerging and fragile and lacking in their ability to safeguard democratic gains, and it is this weakness that has made it possible for this power struggle to ripen into a full-blown political crisis. First and foremost, my resolution calls for the crisis to be resolved in a manner that adheres to the rule of law consistent with Ukraine's democratic values and national security, in keeping with its OSCE commitments. It is also essential that the dispute is resolved in a peaceful manner. I am encouraged that demonstrations in Kyiv have been peaceful and that all sides to the dispute appear to recognize that any kind of violent conflict would have very negative consequences for Ukraine. Madam Speaker, prolonged instability is clearly not in Ukraine's interests and that nation's political leaders need to find a transparent way out of the current impasse that all parties will abide by. I hope that responsible dialogue consistent with the rule of law leads to a positive outcome for the Ukrainian people and the democratic path they have chosen. As this resolution underscores, Congress has been a staunch supporter of the development of democracy and respect for human rights and the rule of law in Ukraine since the restoration of that nation's independence in 1991. The consolidation of democracy and the rule of law in Ukraine will further strengthen that country's independence and sovereignty, enhancing Ukraine's aspirations for full integration with the West. I urge my colleagues to support this timely resolution as a demonstration of Congress' interest, concern, and support for the Ukrainian people. By Mr. HASTINGS of Florida (for himself, Ms. KAPTUR, and Mr. LEVIN):  H. Con. Res. 115. Concurrent resolution urging all sides to the current political crisis in Ukraine to act responsibly and use dialogue to resolve the crisis and ensure a free and transparent democratic system in Ukraine based on the rule of law; to the Committee on Foreign Affairs.

  • Commission on Slavery Established in Romania

    Madame Speaker, two hundred years ago, the movement for the abolition of slavery achieved a major victory with the passage of a British law banning the trade in slaves – an anniversary that is getting heightened attention with the release of a new movie chronicling those events. Ending the trade in slaves was not the same as actually ending slavery, but it was a critical beginning to the end.  Other developments have also caused us to revisit the legacy of slavery in our own country. This includes the decision by the legislature of the Commonwealth of Virginia to apologize for that state’s role in the slave trade, and reports that Maryland and Missouri are considering similar steps.  With a view to our own country’s painful and complicated history of slavery, and as the first African-American Chairman of the Helsinki Commission, I was particularly interested to learn about commemorations held on February 20th in Romania, marking the beginning of the end of slavery in that country. In the case of Romania, however, slaves were not kidnapped and transported from a faraway land. Instead, those enslaved were Roma, a people that had settled in Romania by the 14th century.  This ethnic group – somewhere around 1,000 years ago – migrated to Europe from what is now India. Today, Roma make up the largest ethnic minority in the European Union, conservatively estimated at 10 million people.  Romania, with an estimated 2 million Roma, has the largest Romani minority on the continent. And in that country, beginning in the 14th century and ending with the establishment of the modern Romanian state in 1864, slavery to the crown, to nobility, and to the monasteries was the exclusive status of Roma.  To be clear, Roma were not serfs; they were slaves, bought and sold like cattle. In 1837, the great Romanian historian and statesman Mihail Kogalniceanu described their situation as follows:  On the streets of the Iasi of my youth, I saw human beings wearing chains on their arms and legs, others with iron clamps around their foreheads, and still others with metal collars about their necks. Cruel beatings, and other punishments such as starvation, being hung over smoking fires, solitary imprisonment and being thrown naked into the snow or the frozen rivers, such was the fate of the wretched Tsigan [Rom]. The sacred institution of the family was likewise made a mockery: women were wrested from their men, and daughters from their parents. Children were torn from the breasts of those who brought them into this world, separated from their mothers and fathers and from each other, and sold to different buyers from the four corners of Romania, like cattle. Neither humanity nor religious sentiment, nor even civil law, offered protection for these beings. It was a terrible sight, and one which cried out to Heaven.  Unfortunately, it appears that the history of slavery in Romania -- and the impact of slavery on the lives of Roma -- has received little scholarly attention. As a corollary, little is taught in Romanian schools about this important chapter in the nation's history.  I was very heartened, therefore, to learn that Romanian Prime Minister Calin Popescu-Tariceanu announced on February 20 that the Romanian Government will establish a commission to study the enslavement of Roma. The National Agency for Roma will play a central role in setting up this commission, and the commission will produce recommendations for the teaching of Romani history and promoting Romani culture.  Madame Speaker, there is an awful lot of hand wringing about the deplorable situation of Roma today. Across the OSCE region, they face profound discrimination, sometimes manifested in the worst forms of racially motivated violence. Moreover, in 2003, the United Nations Development Program issued a report on the situation in five Central European countries, concluding that, “by measures ranging from literacy to infant mortality to basic nutrition, most of the region’s Roma endure living conditions closer to those of Sub-Saharan Africa than to Europe.”  But if you want to know where you're going, you have to know where you came from; if we want to change this status quo, we have to understand the past, which makes this new commission vital for Roma. With respect to Roma, that means three things. First, it means understanding the history of Roma before World War II, and in the case of Romania and Moldova, that requires teaching, studying, and acknowledging the enslavement of Roma. Second, the genocide of Roma during World War II must also be remembered, and more must be done to study and understand the diverse experiences of Roma during the war in different European countries. Finally, we must put an end to the pernicious, dangerous myth that communism was "good" for Roma.  With all this in mind, Prime Minister Tariceanu's initiative is really an extremely important step in addressing so many of the problems that Roma face today. I commend him for his leadership and I look forward to following closely the work of this body.

  • Recognizing the 50th Anniversary of the Treaty of Rome

    Mr. WEXLER. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and agree to the resolution (H. Res. 230) recognizing the 50th Anniversary of the Treaty of Rome signed on March 25, 1957, which was a key step in creating the European Union, and reaffirming the close and mutually beneficial relationship between the United States and Europe. The Clerk read as follows: H. Res. 230 Whereas, after a half century marked by two world wars and at a time when Europe was divided and some nations were deprived of freedom, and as the continent faced the urgent need for economic and political recovery, major European statesmen such as Robert Schuman, Jean Monnet, Paul-Henri Spaak, Konrad Adenauer, Alcide de Gasperi, Sir Winston Churchill, and others joined together to lay the foundations of an ever closer union among their peoples; Whereas on March 25, 1957, the Federal Republic of Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg signed the Treaty of Rome to establish a customs union, to create a framework to promote the free movement of people, services, and capital among the member states, to support agricultural growth, and to create a common transport policy, which gave new impetus to the pledge of unity in the European Coal and Steel Agreement of 1951; Whereas to fulfill its purpose, the European Union has created a unique set of institutions: the directly-elected European Parliament, the Council consisting of representatives of the Member States, the Commission acting in the general interest of the Community, and the Court of Justice to enforce the rule of law; Whereas on February 7, 1992, the leaders of the then 12 members of the European Community signed the Treaty of Maastricht establishing a common European currency, the Euro, to be overseen by a common financial institution, the European Central Bank, for the purpose of a freer movement of capital and common European economic policies; Whereas the European Union was expanded with the addition of the United Kingdom, Denmark, and Ireland in 1973, Greece in 1981, Spain and Portugal in 1986, a unified Germany in 1990, Austria, Finland, and Sweden in 1995, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia in 2004, and Bulgaria and Romania in 2007, making the European Union a body of 27 countries with a population of over 450 million people; Whereas the European Union has developed policies in the economic, security, diplomatic, and political areas: it has established a single market with broad common policies to organize that market and ensure prosperity and cohesion; it has built an economic and monetary union, including the Euro currency; and it has built an area of freedom, security, and justice, extending stability to its neighbors; Whereas following the end of the Cold War and the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the European Union has played a critical role in the former Central European communist states in promoting free markets, democratic institutions and values, respect for human rights, and the resolve to fight against tyranny and for common national security objectives; Whereas for the past 50 years the United States and the European Union have shared a unique partnership, mindful of their common heritage, shared values and mutual interests, have worked together to strengthen transatlantic security, to preserve and promote peace and freedom, to develop free and prosperous economies, and to advance human rights; and Whereas the United States has supported the European integration process and has consistently supported the objective of European unity and the enlargement of the European Union as desirable developments which promote prosperity, peace, and democracy, and which contribute to the strengthening of the vital relationship between the United States and the nations of Europe: Now, therefore, be it  Resolved, That the House of Representatives-- (1) recognizes the historic significance of the Treaty of Rome on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of its signing;  (2) commends the European Union and the member nations of the European Union for the positive role which the institution has played in the growth, development, and prosperity of contemporary Europe;  (3) recognizes the important role played by the European Union in fostering the independence, democracy, and economic development of the former Central European communist states following the end of the Cold War;  (4) acknowledges the vital role of the European Union in the development of the close and mutually beneficial relationship that exists between the United States and Europe;  (5) affirms that in order to strengthen the transatlantic partnership there must be a renewed commitment to regular and intensive consultations between the United States and the European Union; and  (6) joins with the European Parliament in agreeing to strengthen the transatlantic partnership by enhancing the dialogue and collaboration between the United States Congress and the European Parliament.  I first want to thank Chairman Lantos for introducing this resolution with me. If there is anyone in Congress who fully understands the significance of this moment, it is Congressman Lantos, who has been an unwavering supporter of the transatlantic alliance and the creation of the European Union. In addition, I want to thank the ranking member of the Europe Subcommittee, Mr. Gallegly, for his efforts in bringing this resolution to the floor. Mr. Speaker, on March 25, 1957, in an attempt to recover from destruction caused by two devastating world wars, six European nations, France, Italy, Belgium, The Netherlands, the Federal Republic of Germany, and Luxembourg, joined together in common interest to form the foundations of a new economic and political community. The resulting Treaty of Rome laid the framework to promote an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe. At that time, the Treaty of Rome provided for the establishment of a common market, a customs union and common policies, expanding on the unity already established in the European Coal and Steel Community. The founding members, keen on ensuring the past was not to be repeated, were particularly interested in the idea of creating a community of peace and stability through economic ties. The success of the European Economic Community inspired other countries to apply for membership, making it the first concrete step toward the creation of the European Union. The Treaty of Rome established the basic institutions and decision-making mechanisms still in place today. The European Union, now comprised of 27 countries and over 450 million people, is a unique and a historic example of nation-states transcending their former divisions, deciding to come together for the sake of freedom, peace and prosperity, and resolving their differences in the interest of the common good and rule of law. The success of the EU over the past 50 years has also benefited greatly the United States. Today, the United States and Europe enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship that has a long and established history. As the world's most important alliance, the U.S. and the EU are intimately intertwined, cooperating on regional conflicts, collaborating to address global challenges, and sharing strong trade and investment relations. It is clear that the strongest possible relationship between the United States and Europe is a prerequisite for addressing the challenges of the 21st century. The U.S. and EU are working closely to promote reform and peace in the Middle East, rebuild and enhance security in Afghanistan, support the goals of democratization and prosperity in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Balkans and Central Asia, prevent genocide in Darfur and end the violence and terrorism in Lebanon. The anniversary of the Rome Treaty is a reminder of the importance of the transatlantic alliance in an increasingly difficult global environment. However, the 50-year EU experiment is an example of the enduring possibilities of democratic transformation and a brighter future for millions. It is my hope that the EU will continue to keep its doors open and remain a beacon of hope to the citizens of Europe who aspire to obtain the peace and prosperity that have blossomed over the past 50 years. When Americans visit Europe today, it is hard to see how very damaged the countries of that continent were when they emerged from the destruction of the Second World War. American assistance played a very important role in rebuilding Western Europe in the 1940s and the 1950s, and American arms played a crucial role in protecting the democracies of Europe from the advance of Soviet communism during the Cold War. Ultimately, however, Europeans needed to do more on their own to build upon a foundation that the United States had first provided. The 1957 Treaty of Rome, signed by France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, The Netherlands, and Luxembourg was one of the first steps that Western Europe took to put the causes and the legacy of the Second World War behind them. The treaty established a free-trade region known as the European Economic Community, the cornerstone of what we today know as the European Union. A post-World War II economically ravaged Europe reasoned that if nations are linked economically, in this case by recalling the role that economic decline and hindered trade among nations had played in the years leading up to World War II, the creators of that free trade zone saw that the freedom of movement of goods, services, capital, and people might well prove to be a great deterrent to conflict between the states of Europe, large and small. Over the subsequent decades through the entry of new members and expansions both geographically across Europe and functionally across issues, the European Community grew beyond the original core membership of the 1950s and assumed responsibilities going well beyond trade. Today, the European Union indeed counts among its member states countries that once were under Soviet domination. It has worked to transfer more powers from its individual member states to the overall organization centered on the road to creating a more unified European foreign and security policy and making the European Union an organization that the United States increasingly looks to for leadership on transatlantic issues, joining the NATO alliances that continue to bind us together in that common cause. While the European Community continues to provide a framework within which to conduct international trade, such as multilateral trade negotiations with the United States, it has also advanced the cause of liberty, free markets, democratic institutions, and respect for human rights throughout the European continent. The Treaty of Rome was an important step in building on the foundation that the United States helped create after World War II for Europe. Today, we look to a strong Europe as seen in the expanded NATO and expanded and strengthened European Union as a foundation on which we can work together to address new and ever growing challenges. Therefore, with enthusiasm, Mr. Speaker, it is that this House should commemorate the 50th anniversary of the signing of this Treaty of Rome. Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to join with my colleagues in supporting H. Res. 230, a resolution recognizing the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, which was signed on March 25, 1957. The Treaty of Rome established a customs union--formally known as the European Economic Community--among six countries: Belgium, France, Italy, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, and the Federal Republic of Germany. Today, that customs union is known as the European Union, and now includes 27 countries spanning the length and breadth of Europe. Most importantly, it has grown into an institution that inspires countries to be their better selves. If one travels to Europe today, it may be hard to remember that, 50 years ago, the continent was still recovering from the second of the two world wars it had unleashed in less than half a century. It may be hard today to recall or imagine the magnitude of devastation that still scarred farmland and cities alike. It may be difficult to conceive of the bitterness, anger and thirst for revenge that bled across the continent like the blood of those fallen in war. The fact that Germany, a country that had unleashed a war of aggression against its neighbors just a few years before, was included in this new ``community'' was really nothing short of a minor miracle. Moreover, fifty years ago, Europe was still riven in two--no longer by a shooting war, but by a cold war. While a small group of nations was beginning the slow process of rebuilding their own countries and forging transnational relations based on cooperation, mutual trust, and mutual benefit, another part of the continent had fallen under the boot of communist dictatorship, where the Soviet Union exploited its neighbors, stripping them of wealth, prosperity, and opportunity for generations. Just one year before the Treaty of Rome was signed, the Soviet Union underscored its opposition to any independent foreign or economic policy on the part of East European countries--a message unequivocally sent by its invasion of Hungary. As the years passed, and the success of the European Economic Communities became ever more apparent, it is no surprise that more countries joined this union. Membership in Council of Europe, the European Union's sister organization and home of the European Court of Human Rights, helped pave the way for membership in the EU. Meanwhile, the NATO alliance created a zone of military security where the post-war citizens of Western Europe could build a zone of financial security. Since the fall of communism, there is no doubt that the aspiration of joining the European Union, much like the goal of joining the NATO alliance, has helped focus the attention of many countries on overcoming their past differences for a larger, common good that also brings substantial benefits to their own citizens. Today, I commemorate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome, and the new vision it held for the European continent, one that has helped spread peace and prosperity to nearly 500 million people.

  • In Honor of Vaclav Havel

    Thirty years ago, the Charter 77 movement was established with the simple goal of ensuring that the citizens of Czechoslovakia could “live and work as free human beings.” Today, as Co-Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, I join with my colleagues in celebrating the founding of Charter 77 and honoring those men and women who, through their personal acts of courage, helped bring freedom to their country.  When the Charter 77 manifesto was issued, three men were chosen to be the first spokespersons of this newly formed movement: a renowned European philosopher, Jan Patocka; Jiri Hajek, who had been Czechoslovakia’s Foreign Minister during the Prague Spring; and the playwright, Vaclav Havel. They had the authority to speak for the movement and to issue documents on behalf of signatories.  Tragically, Jan Patocka paid with his life for his act of bravery and courage. After signing the Charter and meeting with Dutch Ambassador Max van der Stoel, he was subjected to prolonged interrogation by the secret police. It is widely believed this interrogation triggered a heart attack, resulting in his death on March 13, 1977. In spite of this chilling message from the regime, Jiri Hajek and Vaclav Havel continued to work with other Chartists, at tremendous personal cost. Two-hundred and thirty signatories were called in for interrogation; 50 houses were subjected to searches. Many supporters lost their jobs or faced other forms of persecution; many were sent to prison. In fact, the harsh treatment of the Charter 77 signatories led to the creation of another human rights group, the Committee for the Defense of the Unjustly Persecuted, known by its Czech acronym, VONS. In October 1979, six VONS leaders, including Vaclav Havel, were tried for subversion and sentenced to prison terms of up to five years. Perhaps the regime’s harsh tactics reflected its knowledge that, ultimately, it could only retain control through force and coercion. Certainly, there was no perestroika or glasnost in Husak’s Czechoslovakia; no goulash communism as in neighboring Hungary. And so, the regime was threatened by groups that might have seemed inconsequential elsewhere: by the psychedelic band, “Plastic People of the Universe;” by a musical appreciation group known as the Jazz Section; by environmentalists, historians, philosophers and, of course, playwrights. 1989 was an extraordinary year – a year in which the regime sought to control everything and, in the end, could control nothing. In May, Hungary opened its borders. In June, free elections were held for parliamentary seats in Poland for the first time in decades. By August, 5,000 East German were fleeing to Austria through Hungary every single week. Demonstrations in East Germany continued to rise, forcing Eric Honecker to resign in October. On November 9, the Berlin wall was breached. But while communist leaders in other countries saw the writing on the wall, authorities in Prague continued to believe they could somehow cling to power. Ironically, the regime’s repressive tactics were part of its final undoing.  On November 17, 1989, significant student demonstrations were held in Prague. Human rights groups released video tapes of police and militia viciously beating the demonstrators and these tapes were rapidly and widely circulated through the underground. Shortly thereafter, VONS received credible information that a student demonstrator had been beaten to death. The alleged death so outraged Czechoslovak society that it triggered massive demonstrations. Within days, Czechoslovakia’s Communist regime collapsed like a house of cards.  As it turned out, no one had actually been killed during the November 17 protests; the story of the student death had been concocted by the secret police to discredit VONS, but was all too believable. As concisely stated by Mary Battiata, a reporter for the Washington Post, “. . . a half-baked secret police plan to discredit a couple of dissidents apparently boomeranged and turned a sputtering student protest into a national rebellion.” On December 29, Vaclav Havel, who had been in prison just a few months earlier, was elected President of Czechoslovakia by the Federal Parliament.  Jan Patocka once wrote, “The real test of a man is not how well he plays the role he has invented for himself, but how well he plays the role that destiny assigned to him.” It seems that destiny had a particular role for Vaclav Havel, not one that he invented or envisioned for himself, but one that he has played with courage and grace, with dignity and honor. Today, we honor Vaclav Havel and the Charter 77 movement he helped to found.

  • In Honor of Vaclav Havel Statement by Senator Benjamin Cardin

    Thirty years ago, the Charter 77 movement was established with the simple goal of ensuring that the citizens of Czechoslovakia could “live and work as free human beings.” Today, as Co-Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, I join with my colleagues in celebrating the founding of Charter 77 and honoring those men and women who, through their personal acts of courage, helped bring freedom to their country.  When the Charter 77 manifesto was issued, three men were chosen to be the first spokespersons of this newly formed movement: a renowned European philosopher, Jan Patocka; Jiri Hajek, who had been Czechoslovakia’s Foreign Minister during the Prague Spring; and the playwright, Vaclav Havel. They had the authority to speak for the movement and to issue documents on behalf of signatories.  Tragically, Jan Patocka paid with his life for his act of bravery and courage. After signing the Charter and meeting with Dutch Ambassador Max van der Stoel, he was subjected to prolonged interrogation by the secret police. It is widely believed this interrogation triggered a heart attack, resulting in his death on March 13, 1977. In spite of this chilling message from the regime, Jiri Hajek and Vaclav Havel continued to work with other Chartists, at tremendous personal cost. Two-hundred and thirty signatories were called in for interrogation; 50 houses were subjected to searches. Many supporters lost their jobs or faced other forms of persecution; many were sent to prison. In fact, the harsh treatment of the Charter 77 signatories led to the creation of another human rights group, the Committee for the Defense of the Unjustly Persecuted, known by its Czech acronym, VONS. In October 1979, six VONS leaders, including Vaclav Havel, were tried for subversion and sentenced to prison terms of up to five years. Perhaps the regime’s harsh tactics reflected its knowledge that, ultimately, it could only retain control through force and coercion. Certainly, there was no perestroika or glasnost in Husak’s Czechoslovakia; no goulash communism as in neighboring Hungary. And so, the regime was threatened by groups that might have seemed inconsequential elsewhere: by the psychedelic band, “Plastic People of the Universe;” by a musical appreciation group known as the Jazz Section; by environmentalists, historians, philosophers and, of course, playwrights. 1989 was an extraordinary year – a year in which the regime sought to control everything and, in the end, could control nothing. In May, Hungary opened its borders. In June, free elections were held for parliamentary seats in Poland for the first time in decades. By August, 5,000 East German were fleeing to Austria through Hungary every single week. Demonstrations in East Germany continued to rise, forcing Eric Honecker to resign in October. On November 9, the Berlin wall was breached. But while communist leaders in other countries saw the writing on the wall, authorities in Prague continued to believe they could somehow cling to power. Ironically, the regime’s repressive tactics were part of its final undoing.  On November 17, 1989, significant student demonstrations were held in Prague. Human rights groups released video tapes of police and militia viciously beating the demonstrators and these tapes were rapidly and widely circulated through the underground. Shortly thereafter, VONS received credible information that a student demonstrator had been beaten to death. The alleged death so outraged Czechoslovak society that it triggered massive demonstrations. Within days, Czechoslovakia’s Communist regime collapsed like a house of cards.  As it turned out, no one had actually been killed during the November 17 protests; the story of the student death had been concocted by the secret police to discredit VONS, but was all too believable. As concisely stated by Mary Battiata, a reporter for the Washington Post, “. . . a half-baked secret police plan to discredit a couple of dissidents apparently boomeranged and turned a sputtering student protest into a national rebellion.” On December 29, Vaclav Havel – who had been in prison just a few months earlier – was elected President of Czechoslovakia by the Federal Parliament.  Jan Patocka once wrote, “The real test of a man is not how well he plays the role he has invented for himself, but how well he plays the role that destiny assigned to him.” It seems that destiny had a particular role for Vaclav Havel, not one that he invented or envisioned for himself, but one that he has played with courage and grace, with dignity and honor. Today, we honor Vaclav Havel and the Charter 77 movement he helped to found.

  • In Honor of Vaclav Havel Statement by Senator Sam Brownback

    Today I wish to join my colleagues from the Helsinki Commission in commemorating the founding of the Charter 77 movement thirty years ago, and praising Vaclav Havel, one of Charter 77’s first spokesmen and the first post-communist president of Czechoslovakia.  Many aspects of Vaclav Havel’s biography are well known. His advanced formal education was limited by the communist regime because of his family’s pre-WWII cultural and economic status. By the 1960s, he was working in theater and writing plays. But by 1969, the communist regime had deemed him “subversive,” and his passport was confiscated.  In 1977, he took the daring step of joining two others – Jan Patocka and Jiri Hajek – in becoming the first spokesmen for the newly established “Charter 77” movement. This group sought to compel the Czechoslovak Government to abide by the international human rights commitments it had freely undertaken, including the Helsinki Final Act.  In the 1970s and 1980s, Vaclav Havel was repeatedly imprisoned because of his human rights work. His longest period of imprisonment was 4½ years (1979-1983) for subversion. After this, Havel was given the opportunity to emigrate but, courageously, he chose to stay in Czechoslovakia. By February 1989, Havel had come to symbolize a growing human rights and democratic movement in Czechoslovakia and, that year, the Helsinki Commission nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize.  Remarkably, in November 1989, the repressive machinery of the communist regime – a regime that for five decades had persecuted and even murdered its own citizens – collapsed in what has come to be known as the “Velvet Revolution.”  To understand just how repressive the former regime was – and therefore how stunning its seemingly sudden demise was – it may be instructive to recall the first measures of the post-communist leadership, introduced the heady days of late 1989 and early 1990. First and foremost, all known political prisoners were released. Marxism-Leninism was removed as a required course from all school curricula. Borders were opened for thousands of people who had previously been prohibited from traveling freely. Control over the People's Militia was transferred from the Party to the Government. The Federal Assembly passed a resolution condemning the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia. Approximately 40 ambassadors representing the Czechoslovak communist regime were recalled. Newly appointed Foreign Minister Jiri Dienstbier announced that the “temporary” 1968 agreement allowing Soviet troops to remain in Czechoslovakia was invalid because agreed to under duress and that Soviet troops would withdraw from the country. The Politburo announced it would end the nomenklatura system of reserving certain jobs for party functionaries. The secret police was abolished. Alexander Dubcek, leader of the 1968 Prague Spring, was elected Chairman of the Federal Assembly on December 28 and, a day later, Vaclav Havel was voted to replace Gustav Husak. In February 1990, Vaclav Havel addressed a joint session of Congress.  Charter 77 paved the way for all of these things, and more: for Czechoslovakia’s first free and fair elections since 1946, for the normalization of trade relations between our two countries, and for the Czech Republic’s accession to NATO. Not surprisingly, the work of Charter 77 continues to inspire, as is evidenced by the adoption of the name “Charter 97” by human rights activists in Belarus, who are still working to bring to their own country a measure of democracy and respect for human rights that Czechs have now enjoyed for some years.  I am therefore pleased to recognize the 30th anniversary of the Charter 77 movement and to join others in honoring Vaclav Havel who remains, to this day, the conscience of the global community.

  • In Honor of Vaclav Havel and the 30th Anniversary of Charter 77 Statement by Chairman Alcee Hastings

    As Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, I am privileged to add my voice today to those honoring Vaclav Havel, Czechoslovakia’s first post-communist President, and the Charter 77 movement which, 30 years ago, he helped to found.  Three decades ago, the Charter 77 movement was established and its founding manifesto was formally delivered to the Communist regime in Prague. The goals of the Chartists – as signatories came to be known – were fairly straightforward: “Charter 77 [they stated] is a loose, informal and open association of people of various shades of opinion, faiths and professions united by the will to strive individually and collectively for the respect of civic and human rights in our own country and throughout the world – rights accorded to all men by the two mentioned international covenants, by the Final Act of the Helsinki conference and by numerous other international documents opposing war, violence and social or spiritual oppression, and which are comprehensively laid down in the U.N. Universal Charter of Human Rights.”  The phrase “people of various shades of opinion” was, in fact, a charming understatement regarding the diversity of the signatories. Founding members of this movement included Vaclav Maly, a Catholic priest banned by the regime; Vacla Benda, a Christian philosopher; former Trotskyite Peter Uhl; former Communists like Zdenek Mlynar and Jiri Hajek, both of whom were ousted from their leadership positions in the wake of the 1968 Soviet attack that crushed the Prague Spring reforms; and, of course, Vaclav Havel, a playwright and dramatist. Notwithstanding the many differences these people surely had, they were united common purpose: to compel the Communist regime to respect the international human rights agreements it had freely adopted.  Interestingly, the Charter 77 movement was never a mass dissident movement – fewer than two thousand people ever formally signed this document. But, to use a boxing analogy, Charter 77 punched above its weight. Its influence could be felt far beyond the number of those who openly signed on and, ultimately, in the battle of wits with the Communist regime, Charter 77 clearly won.  And most importantly, Charter 77 – like other human rights groups founded at roughly the same time in Moscow, Vilnius, Warsaw and elsewhere – looked to the Helsinki process as a vehicle for calling their own governments to account. Although it is sometimes said that the Helsinki process helped to bring down communism, it is really these grass roots movements that gave the Helsinki process its real meaning and its true legitimacy.  Thirty years ago, a small, courageous band of people came together and said, “We believe that Charter 77 will help to enable all citizens of Czechoslovakia to work and live as free human beings.” Today, we remember their struggle and praise their enduring contributions to democracy and human rights.

  • In Honor of Vaclav Havel and the 30th Anniversary of Charter 77 Statement by Representative Chris Smith

    Madame Speaker, Edmund Burke once said that, “all it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Thirty years ago, good men and women came together, and together, they ultimately triumphed over evil.  In 1987, I traveled to Czechoslovakia with a Helsinki Commission delegation led by my good friend, Steny Hoyer, who was then Chairman of the Commission. We traveled there just ten years after the Charter 77 movement had been formed and, amazingly, in spite of persecution and imprisonment, they had managed to publish 350 documents during its first ten years. And it was clear during my visit to Prague that this organization was having an impact, especially when the communist authorities went to the trouble of preventing five independent activists, including Vaclav Havel, from meeting with us.  In spite of this, our delegation was able to meet with several other Charter 77 signatories and sympathizers: Libuse Silhanova, Josef Vohryzek, Father Vaclav Maly, Zdenek Urbanek, and Rita Klimova. Libuse Silhanova, then serving as a Charter 77 spokesperson, described her fellow Chartists as “ordinary people who happen to be part of a movement.” For a group of “ordinary people,” they certainly accomplished extraordinary things.  One of the most notable of these “ordinary people” was the playwright Vaclav Havel, who is today the sole surviving member of Charter 77’s first three spokespersons. At a time when most Czechoslovaks preferred to keep their heads low, he held his up. When others dared not speak out, he raised up his voice. While others hid from communism in their apartments and weekend cottages, he faced it down in prison.  In 1978, Havel wrote a seminal essay entitled, “The Power of the Powerless.” In it, he proposed a remarkably conspiratorial concept: the idea that those repressed by the Communist Lie actually had the power to “live for truth,” and that by doing so, they could change the world in which they live.  One of the people who read this essay was Zbygniew Bujak, who became a leading Solidarity activist in Poland. Bujak described the impact of Havel’s message:  This essay reached us in the Ursus factory in 1979 at a point when we felt we were at the end of the road. Inspired by KOR [the Polish Workers' Defense Committee, which preceded Solidarity], we had been speaking on the shop floor, talking to people, participating in public meetings, trying to speak the truth about the factory, the country, and politics. There came a moment when people thought we were crazy. Why were we doing this? Why were we taking such risks? Not seeing any immediate and tangible results, we began to doubt the purposefulness of what we were doing. Shouldn’t we be coming up with other methods, other ways?  Then came the essay by Havel. Reading it gave us the theoretical underpinnings for our activity. It maintained our spirits; we did not give up, and a year later – in August 1980 – it became clear that the party apparatus and the factory management were afraid of us. We mattered. And the rank and file saw us as leaders of the movement. When I look at the victories of Solidarity, and of Charter 77, I see in them an astonishing fulfillment of the prophecies and knowledge contained in Havel's essay.  Vaclav Havel’s essay was not just the product of clever wordsmithing; it was an act of singular heroism. In fact, shortly after writing “The Power of the Powerless,” Vaclav Havel found himself in prison, again. And it should be remembered that others, including philosopher Jan Patocka, Havel’s close friend, and Pavel Wonka, paid with their lives for their opposition to the Czechoslovak communist regime.  Vaclav Havel is a man who has always been guided by the courage of his convictions. Remarkably, his courage did not fade upon his assumption of the presidency. Indeed, he is all the more heroic for his steadfast commitment to human rights even from the Prague Castle. From the beginning, he was a voice of reason, not revenge, as he addressed his country’s communist and totalitarian past. In 1993, he rightly identified the situation of Roma as “a litmus test for civil society.” And not only has he raised human rights issues in his own country but reminds the world of the abuses taking place in Cuba and China.  Throughout his presidency, he pardoned those faced with criminal charges under communist-era laws that restrict free speech. In 2001, he spoke out against the parliament’s regressive religion law, which turned the clock back on religious freedom. And he has reminded other world leaders of our shared responsibility for the poor and less fortunate the world over.  On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the founding of Charter 77, I want to join my colleagues from the Helsinki Commission in honoring Vaclav Havel and all the men and women who signed the Charter, who supported its goals, and who helped bring democracy to Czechoslovakia.

  • In Honor of Vaclav Havel and the 30th Anniversary of Charter 77 Statement by Representative Steny Hoyer

    Madame Speaker, this year marks the thirtieth anniversary of the Charter 77 movement. Along with other colleagues from the Helsinki Commission, which I had the privilege of Chairing and Co-Chairing from 1985 to 1994, I rise today to commemorate Charter 77’s extraordinary accomplishments, and to praise Vaclav Havel, a founding member of the Charter 77 movement and Czechoslovakia’s first President after the fall of communism. Twenty years ago this month, I led a Congressional delegation to Czechoslovakia – my first trip to that country. At that time, I was assured by Czechoslovak Government officials that Charter 77 was only a small group, and there was no need to have a dialogue with its members. In an apparent effort to underscore their point, the regime detained several Chartists to keep them from meeting with our delegation: Vaclav Havel, Petr Uhl and Jiri Dienstbier were all arrested in Prague; Miklos Duray was prevented from traveling to Prague from Slovakia; and although Petr Puspoki-Nagy made it to Prague, he was also immediately detained on his arrival. Although I was deprived of the chance to meet these individuals in person, I was already well aware of their work. In fact, the Helsinki Commission’s second hearing, held in February 1977, published the full text of the Charter 77 manifesto at the request of one of our witnesses, Mrs. Anna Faltus. We owe a special debt of gratitude to the late Mrs. Faltus, who worked tirelessly for decades as an advocate for a free Czechoslovakia. To this end, she made sure that the documents of Charter 77 and the Committee for the Defense of the Unjustly Persecuted were quickly translated and widely disseminated to policy makers and human rights advocates. Her effort made it possible for the Helsinki Commission to publish (in 1982 and in 1987) selected and representatives texts of the Charter 77 movement. Looking back, the breadth of those documents is truly remarkably, touching on everything from the legacy of World War II to the country’s economic situation; from contemporary music to nuclear energy. But the common thread that bound these diverse statements together was a commitment to promote and protect “the right of the individual to know and act upon his rights.” This right was freely adopted by the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic when Gustav Husak fixed his signature to the Helsinki Final Act in 1975. It was, of course, with great interest that I discussed Charter 77, first with Czechoslovak officials during my February 1987 trip to Prague, then with Czechoslovak parliamentarians visiting Washington in June 1988 (a delegation which included Prague Communist Party boss Miroslav Stepan), and then with the Czechoslovak delegation to the 1989 Paris Meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension. In these meetings, as well as in correspondence with the Czechoslovak Ambassador to the United States, I was told that Charter 77 didn’t represent public opinion. I was warned that siding with Charter 77 would not help bilateral relations, and I was assured that democracy was coming soon to Czechoslovakia – “socialist democracy.” Needless to say, I was not convinced by my interlocutors: I was not convinced that Augustin Navratil was actually being treated for a mental health condition, rather than being persecuted for his religious activism. I was frankly disgusted when the Czechoslovak delegation to the Paris meeting baldly lied about Jiri Wolf, telling us he had been released early from his prison sentence as a "humanitarian" gesture, and then shrugging with indifference when they were caught in their lie. Most of all, I did not believe that Vaclav Havel was a criminal and Charter 77 merely an “insignificant” group. In fact, in 1989 Senator Dennis DeConcini and I nominated Vaclav Havel for the Nobel Peace Prize. As Senator DeConcini said, “[i]n spite of relentless harassment by the authorities, including imprisonment, repeated detentions, house searches, and confiscation of property, Havel has remained active in the struggle for human rights. . . . Havel is now in prison, but he is not alone in his cause. In a dramatic move . . . over 700 of his colleagues – playwrights, producers, artists, and actors – signed a petition calling for his release and the release of others [similarly imprisoned.] For these people, like many others in his country, Vaclav Havel has become a symbol of an enduring and selfless commitment to human rights.” Madame Speaker, on this 30th anniversary of the founding of the Charter 77 movement, I rise to commend and remember the courageous men and women, signatories and supporters, who paved the way for the peaceful transition from communism in Czechoslovakia and restoration of Europe, whole and free. On this anniversary, I give special tribute to Vaclav Havel, playwright and president, and his singular role in leading his country to freedom.

  • In Honor of Vaclav Havel and the 30th Anniversary of Charter 77 Statement by Representative Steny Hoyer

    Madame Speaker, this year marks the thirtieth anniversary of the Charter 77 movement. Along with other colleagues from the Helsinki Commission, which I had the privilege of Chairing and Co-Chairing from 1985 to 1994, I rise today to commemorate Charter 77’s extraordinary accomplishments, and to praise Vaclav Havel, a founding member of the Charter 77 movement and Czechoslovakia’s first President after the fall of communism.  Twenty years ago this month, I led a Congressional delegation to Czechoslovakia – my first trip to that country. At that time, I was assured by Czechoslovak Government officials that Charter 77 was only a small group, and there was no need to have a dialogue with its members. In an apparent effort to underscore their point, the regime detained several Chartists to keep them from meeting with our delegation: Vaclav Havel, Petr Uhl and Jiri Dienstbier were all arrested in Prague; Miklos Duray was prevented from traveling to Prague from Slovakia; and although Petr Puspoki-Nagy made it to Prague, he was also immediately detained on his arrival.  Although I was deprived of the chance to meet these individuals in person, I was already well aware of their work. In fact, the Helsinki Commission’s second hearing, held in February 1977, published the full text of the Charter 77 manifesto at the request of one of our witnesses, Mrs. Anna Faltus. We owe a special debt of gratitude to the late Mrs. Faltus, who worked tirelessly for decades as an advocate for a free Czechoslovakia. To this end, she made sure that the documents of Charter 77 and the Committee for the Defense of the Unjustly Persecuted were quickly translated and widely disseminated to policy makers and human rights advocates. Her effort made it possible for the Helsinki Commission to publish (in 1982 and in 1987) selected and representatives texts of the Charter 77 movement.  Looking back, the breadth of those documents is truly remarkably, touching on everything from the legacy of World War II to the country’s economic situation; from contemporary music to nuclear energy. But the common thread that bound these diverse statements together was a commitment to promote and protect “the right of the individual to know and act upon his rights.” This right was freely adopted by the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic when Gustav Husak fixed his signature to the Helsinki Final Act in 1975.  It was, of course, with great interest that I discussed Charter 77, first with Czechoslovak officials during my February 1987 trip to Prague, then with Czechoslovak parliamentarians visiting Washington in June 1988 (a delegation which included Prague Communist Party boss Miroslav Stepan), and then with the Czechoslovak delegation to the 1989 Paris Meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension. In these meetings, as well as in correspondence with the Czechoslovak Ambassador to the United States, I was told that Charter 77 didn’t represent public opinion. I was warned that siding with Charter 77 would not help bilateral relations, and I was assured that democracy was coming soon to Czechoslovakia – “socialist democracy.”  Needless to say, I was not convinced by my interlocutors: I was not convinced that Augustin Navratil was actually being treated for a mental health condition, rather than being persecuted for his religious activism. I was frankly disgusted when the Czechoslovak delegation to the Paris meeting baldly lied about Jiri Wolf, telling us he had been released early from his prison sentence as a "humanitarian" gesture, and then shrugging with indifference when they were caught in their lie. Most of all, I did not believe that Vaclav Havel was a criminal and Charter 77 merely an “insignificant” group.  In fact, in 1989 Senator Dennis DeConcini and I nominated Vaclav Havel for the Nobel Peace Prize. As Senator DeConcini said, “[i]n spite of relentless harassment by the authorities, including imprisonment, repeated detentions, house searches, and confiscation of property, Havel has remained active in the struggle for human rights. . . . Havel is now in prison, but he is not alone in his cause. In a dramatic move . . . over 700 of his colleagues – playwrights, producers, artists, and actors – signed a petition calling for his release and the release of others [similarly imprisoned.] For these people, like many others in his country, Vaclav Havel has become a symbol of an enduring and selfless commitment to human rights.”  Madame Speaker, on this 30th anniversary of the founding of the Charter 77 movement, I rise to commend and remember the courageous men and women, signatories and supporters, who paved the way for the peaceful transition from communism in Czechoslovakia and restoration of Europe, whole and free. On this anniversary, I give special tribute to Vaclav Havel, playwright and president, and his singular role in leading his country to freedom.

  • In Honor of Vaclav Havel and the 30th Anniversary of Charter 77 Statement by Representative Steny Hoyer

    Madame Speaker, this year marks the thirtieth anniversary of the Charter 77 movement. Along with other colleagues from the Helsinki Commission, which I had the privilege of Chairing and Co-Chairing from 1985 to 1994, I rise today to commemorate Charter 77’s extraordinary accomplishments, and to praise Vaclav Havel, a founding member of the Charter 77 movement and Czechoslovakia’s first President after the fall of communism.  Twenty years ago this month, I led a Congressional delegation to Czechoslovakia – my first trip to that country. At that time, I was assured by Czechoslovak Government officials that Charter 77 was only a small group, and there was no need to have a dialogue with its members. In an apparent effort to underscore their point, the regime detained several Chartists to keep them from meeting with our delegation: Vaclav Havel, Petr Uhl and Jiri Dienstbier were all arrested in Prague; Miklos Duray was prevented from traveling to Prague from Slovakia; and although Petr Puspoki-Nagy made it to Prague, he was also immediately detained on his arrival.  Although I was deprived of the chance to meet these individuals in person, I was already well aware of their work. In fact, the Helsinki Commission’s second hearing, held in February 1977, published the full text of the Charter 77 manifesto at the request of one of our witnesses, Mrs. Anna Faltus. We owe a special debt of gratitude to the late Mrs. Faltus, who worked tirelessly for decades as an advocate for a free Czechoslovakia. To this end, she made sure that the documents of Charter 77 and the Committee for the Defense of the Unjustly Persecuted were quickly translated and widely disseminated to policy makers and human rights advocates. Her effort made it possible for the Helsinki Commission to publish (in 1982 and in 1987) selected and representatives texts of the Charter 77 movement.  Looking back, the breadth of those documents is truly remarkably, touching on everything from the legacy of World War II to the country’s economic situation; from contemporary music to nuclear energy. But the common thread that bound these diverse statements together was a commitment to promote and protect “the right of the individual to know and act upon his rights.” This right was freely adopted by the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic when Gustav Husak fixed his signature to the Helsinki Final Act in 1975.  It was, of course, with great interest that I discussed Charter 77, first with Czechoslovak officials during my February 1987 trip to Prague, then with Czechoslovak parliamentarians visiting Washington in June 1988 (a delegation which included Prague Communist Party boss Miroslav Stepan), and then with the Czechoslovak delegation to the 1989 Paris Meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension. In these meetings, as well as in correspondence with the Czechoslovak Ambassador to the United States, I was told that Charter 77 didn’t represent public opinion. I was warned that siding with Charter 77 would not help bilateral relations, and I was assured that democracy was coming soon to Czechoslovakia – “socialist democracy.”  Needless to say, I was not convinced by my interlocutors: I was not convinced that Augustin Navratil was actually being treated for a mental health condition, rather than being persecuted for his religious activism. I was frankly disgusted when the Czechoslovak delegation to the Paris meeting baldly lied about Jiri Wolf, telling us he had been released early from his prison sentence as a "humanitarian" gesture, and then shrugging with indifference when they were caught in their lie. Most of all, I did not believe that Vaclav Havel was a criminal and Charter 77 merely an “insignificant” group.  In fact, in 1989 Senator Dennis DeConcini and I nominated Vaclav Havel for the Nobel Peace Prize. As Senator DeConcini said, “[i]n spite of relentless harassment by the authorities, including imprisonment, repeated detentions, house searches, and confiscation of property, Havel has remained active in the struggle for human rights. . . . Havel is now in prison, but he is not alone in his cause. In a dramatic move . . . over 700 of his colleagues – playwrights, producers, artists, and actors – signed a petition calling for his release and the release of others [similarly imprisoned.] For these people, like many others in his country, Vaclav Havel has become a symbol of an enduring and selfless commitment to human rights.”  Madame Speaker, on this 30th anniversary of the founding of the Charter 77 movement, I rise to commend and remember the courageous men and women, signatories and supporters, who paved the way for the peaceful transition from communism in Czechoslovakia and restoration of Europe, whole and free. On this anniversary, I give special tribute to Vaclav Havel, playwright and president, and his singular role in leading his country to freedom.

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