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The Helsinki Commission regularly publishes feature articles about Commission initiatives, OSCE meetings, developments relating to the Helsinki Final Act taking place in OSCE participating States, and more.

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  • Helsinki Commission Chairman Leads U.S. Delegation to Parliamentary Gathering of OSCE Countries

    Led by Helsinki Commission Chairman Senator Roger F. Wicker (MS), 10 Members of the U.S. Congress joined the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s annual Winter Meeting in Vienna, Austria, on February 23 and 24, 2017. Since the founding of the OSCE PA, Members of Congress have actively engaged their Canadian, European, and Central Asian counterparts at Winter Meetings and other OSCE PA events. Such engagement was particularly significant in 2017 in the context of an ongoing terrorist threat in Europe, Russian aggression against Ukraine and other neighboring countries, and the challenges of the massive influx of refugees and migrants into Europe from the Middle East and Africa. The transition to a new Administration in the United States made it more important than ever to reaffirm the commitment of the United States to security and cooperation in the region.  Approximately 250 parliamentarians from 53 participating States took part in the 2017 Winter Meeting, and active participation of the U.S. Delegation – the largest in OSCE PA Winter Meeting history – was warmly welcomed. In addition to Senator Wicker, the U.S. Delegation included Helsinki Commissioners Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20), Rep. Robert B. Aderholt (AL-04), Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09), and Rep. Richard Hudson (NC-08), as well as Senator Lamar Alexander (TN), Rep. Eliot L. Engel (NY-16), Rep. Lloyd Doggett (TX-35), Rep. Steve King (IA-04), and Rep. Trent Kelley (MS-01). U.S. Delegation Speaks Out on Security, Religious Freedom, and Human Rights in Times of Crisis The bicameral, bipartisan Delegation was highly visible throughout the meeting. In addition to his role as Head of the U.S. Delegation in 2017, Senator Wicker serves as chairman of the Assembly’s General Committee on Political Affairs and Security (also known as the First Committee), which met during the Winter Meeting. Opening the committee session, Senator Wicker applauded the opportunity the Winter Meeting provides “to dialogue directly with senior officials working within the OSCE” and “to discuss pressing concerns with the Ambassadors representing all of our States on a continuing basis.”  “This dialogue,” he added, “is one way in which we, as representatives of our citizens, help to shape the future of the OSCE…  The role of this Committee remains as important as at any time in the history of our Assembly. Let us now get down to the work of discussing how we will collectively rise to the challenges of our time.” Representative Hudson participated in the First Committee’s debate on confronting terrorism.  Observing that some countries misuse laws regarding extremism and terrorism to persecute an entire religious community, Hudson agreed that “violent extremism and terrorism – including in the name of religion – are real threats that must be countered,” but argued that “religious affiliation itself is never a justification for detention and imprisonment.” As some governments have been accused in recent years of using outside threats and security concerns as justification for the denial of basic human rights to political opponents, “protecting human rights in a time of crisis” was chosen as a relevant and timely topic for the closing plenary debate. At the closing plenary, Representative King noted the magnitude and gravity of the threats Turkey faces today, including ISIS- and extreme Kurdish-sponsored terrorism as well as an attempted military coup.  He added, however, that the response must respect core obligations and should not be broadened into a crackdown on political rivals, independent voices and average citizens. Representative Aderholt, who also serves as one of nine Vice Presidents of the OSCE PA, remarked on contrasting developments in another country facing a crisis: Ukraine. He noted that the threat posed by Russian aggression since 2014 “could easily have led to a deterioration in Ukraine’s human rights situation, as well as increased corruption and societal intolerance,” but that, “to Ukraine’s credit, this has not happened.” He reminded delegates of the difficult and substantial reforms the country has undertaken in recent years and encouraged their implementation. He also detailed the “contrasting deterioration in the human rights of those parts of Ukraine which have been seized by Russia and its separatist proxies.” Beyond the Debates Chairman Wicker also represented the United States in a session which amended the Assembly’s rules of procedure to encourage greater discipline to avoid over-amending draft resolutions at Annual Sessions which take place each summer, and to ensure that those resolutions are placed on the agenda based on the degree of support they get from heads of delegation.  While in Vienna, the U.S. Delegation hosted two additional events to facilitate an exchange of views: one for 15 of the Parliamentary Assembly’s leaders and heads of delegation, including Austrian parliamentarian and current President Christine Muttonen; and a second for senior OSCE officials. Bilateral talks with the delegates from Georgia, Israel, Poland, Romania, and Russia took place on the margins of the meeting. The next gathering of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly will be its Annual Session, scheduled to take place in Minsk, Belarus, on July 5-9, 2017. About the OSCE PA Winter Meeting The Parliamentary Assembly was formed as the Cold War ended in the early 1990s to allow elected representatives to take a more active role in the multilateral diplomacy of what is today the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).   Winter Meetings initiate the Assembly’s work for the coming year and debate current issues. Unlike other Assembly meetings, Winter Meetings always take place in Vienna to facilitate greater interaction between the parliamentarians and both OSCE officials and diplomatic representatives of the 57 OSCE participating States.   

  • U.S. Congressional Delegation Expresses Bicameral, Bipartisan Commitment to Enduring Partnerships with Jordan and Israel

    Helsinki Commission Chairman Senator Roger F. Wicker (MS) led a bicameral and bipartisan delegation of nine Members of the U.S. Congress to Jordan and Israel from February 19-22, 2017 before traveling to Vienna for the Winter Meeting of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. This was the first major U.S. Congressional delegation to visit Jordan and Israel, two of the United States’ strongest Middle East allies, since the start of the 115th Congress and the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump. As such, it manifested the United States’ lasting and bipartisan commitment to these partnerships that are vital to defending American interests overseas and at home. In addition to Senator Wicker, the U.S. Delegation included Helsinki Commissioners Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20), Rep. Robert B. Aderholt (AL-04), Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09), and Rep. Richard Hudson (NC-08), as well as Senator Lamar Alexander (TN), Rep. Eliot L. Engel (NY-16), Rep. Lloyd Doggett (TX-35), and Rep. Trent Kelly (MS-01). In Jordan, the delegation met with King Abdullah II and reviewed the full horizon of threats and opportunities that lie ahead for Jordan and the United States, particularly concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Iran, Syria, and the fight against terrorism. The King also shared his views about the economic and social challenges facing Jordan in the near- and medium-term, including slow economic growth, high unemployment, and a massive refugee population. Members of the delegation also had the opportunity to visit a Jordanian military unit and meet with the unit’s United States and United Kingdom military trainers to witness the depth of US-Jordanian cooperation and integration. The delegation also consulted with leading members of Jordan’s cabinet, parliament, business community, and civil society. In Israel, the delegation further discussed regional dynamics with Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Deputy Minister for Diplomacy Michael Oren, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs Political Director Alon Ushpiz. In their capacities as U.S. lawmakers, members of the delegation also met with their counterparts from the Israeli Knesset, including members of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, to discuss the role of legislative institutions in fostering effective foreign policy. In each location the delegation held consultations with the United States’ leading diplomatic and military officers to learn about the work of the United States interagency to strengthen our foreign government partners, communicate our values, protect our personnel overseas, and defend the homeland. Jordanian and Israeli interlocutors commonly stressed the importance of reinvigorating American leadership in the region to address the emergence of power vacuums where pernicious influences thrive. The delegation heard concerns in both countries about the impact of Russia and Iran’s ascendant influence in regional conflicts, particularly Syria. These officials further emphasized the need for the US to shape a coalition of moderate regional countries that can challenge the reach of terrorist groups, radical ideologies, and Iran’s destabilizing foreign policy.    The U.S. delegation reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to Israel’s security, which faces threats from virtually every direction on a daily basis. Delegation members also elicited Jordanian and Israeli officials’ views about recent developments in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the prospects for peace, particularly the possibility of achieving a two-state solution. Neither Jordanian nor Israeli officials expressed optimism about the near-term feasibility of achieving a final status agreement and establishing a Palestinian state. Although they emphasized different obstacles to achieving peace, both sides acknowledged the significant challenge posed by weak Palestinian leadership and institutions. Members of the delegation also heard about the importance of U.S. foreign aid to Jordan and Israel, two of the world’s largest recipients of American foreign assistance. The delegation heard how such assistance fosters closer coordination and forges lasting partnerships that are unrivaled by the cooperation offered by other regional stakeholders, thus representing a critical mechanism of US influence.   

  • Panelist Profile: Dr. Margareta Matache

    Dr. Margareta Matache was a speaker at the Helsinki Commission’s February 16, 2017 panel discussion on the challenges faced by Romani communities in Romania. The event followed a screening of the acclaimed Romanian film “Aferim!” (“Bravo!”), which addresses the forgotten history of 500 years of Roma slavery in two former Romanian principalities. Margareta is a Romani activist and scholar from Romania with over 18 years of experience in the field of human rights. She joined the Harvard FXB Center for Health and Human Rights team in 2012, where she currently works as an instructor and director of the Roma Program. Before this position, for seven years Dr. Matache served as the executive director of Romani CRISS, a leading Romani non-profit in Romania. Margareta grew up under the first wave of Romani activism in post-communist Romania. Her father, a construction worker of Romani descent, was a community activist himself, which played a role in fostering her interest in the field of human rights. “This activist environment taught me about our ancestors, some of whom on my mother’s side may have been slaves, and so I am trying to document that now,” she says. Margareta was the first child in her family and community to attend high school. She has a B.A. in Social Work, an M.A. in European Social Policies and a PhD, magna cum laude, from the University of Bucharest. However, her educational path was no easy feat. “As an adolescent, I felt the pressure and pain of race and class constructs and wanted to drop out from school way too often,” she admits.   She says that those feelings later became one of the triggers of her motivation to dedicate a large portion of her work to fighting racism and stigma against Romani adolescents. Margareta became involved with the Romani movement in 1999 as a volunteer for the Roma Students Association, working with association director Emilian Nicolae in a local community in Bucharest. Six years later, she became the executive director of Romani CRISS. “Taking a stand in cases of anti-Roma racism was at the core of our work at Romani CRISS,” Margareta says. Since the 1990s, the organization has documented countless cases of Romani rights violations which were later ruled upon by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and included in reports from Amnesty International, the U.S. State Department, and other institutions. “In 2006, we assisted the community in the town of Apalina, after the police used violence against 37 Roma, including elders. Based on a complaint filed by Romani CRISS, the ECHR condemned the way the Romanian government had conducted the investigation and awarded the victims €192,000 in damages,” she recalls.   Yet, she also recalls that they lost cases before the court in many instances. “We had quite a lot of failures or so called ‘lessons learnt,’” she adds. Margareta’s work was also dedicated to fostering the right to education. “When I took over the Romani CRISS leadership, I continued prioritizing the issues of Romani children segregated in separate schools and classes from their non-Roma peers. We set up a coalition of five renowned nonprofit and intergovernmental organizations that worked with the Ministry of Education to develop a legal document that prohibits segregation. In 2007, our advocacy led to the issuing of a School Desegregation Bill,” she recounts. In 2011, along with other partners, Margareta’s organization convinced the Romanian Parliament to include an article that targets the misdiagnosis and abusive placement of children in special schools based on their ethnicity or another discriminatory criterion in the new Education Law. Despite these successes, Margareta feels that there is still a lot to be done as Romani children continue to be placed in segregated schools and classes to this day. In 2012, Margareta decided to take a break from activism and shifted to academia. At the Harvard FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, she has been pursuing and piloting participatory approaches for assessing the needs of Romani youth and suggest better-informed policies and measures. Moreover, the Roma Program has provided support for Romani and non-Romani youth to conduct culturally sensitive and participatory research. Margareta is also contributing to strengthening ties and joint advocacy efforts between Roma and other social movements, working on reparations claims across historical and geographical spheres.  Slavery in Romania is an example of past state-sponsored injustices around which Margareta’s program try to create awareness and solidarity. “Romania has not even advanced symbolic reparations, including memorials, museums to acknowledge this episode in our country history. Roma and Romanian children are simply deprived from learning about this central episode in their collective history. We need to help the next generations of children, Roma and non-Roma, to learn about the origins of the present-day biases, racist behaviors, and also, to understand the effects of the unseen gadjo or non-Roma privilege,” she says. Margareta also champions the idea to use films and other artistic productions as a tool to ignite discussions and raise awareness of difficult topics. She points out that "Aferim!" helped lay the foundations for the acceptance, recognition, and memorialization of the past of injustice in Romania. “It was remarkable to me that the film was produced and directed by fellow Romanians, who told the world the hidden truth about the uncomfortable past of 500 years of slavery on Romanian territories. I think that 'Aferim!' started the public conversation on the history of slavery while The Great Shame, a play written and directed by the brilliant mind of Alina Serban, continues the conversation on slavery and takes a step further, by looking at the past through the eyes of the present,” she says. According to Margareta, what makes the film exceptional is that “'Aferim!' shifts the emphasis on the non-Roma and their moral responsibility for past injustices and the roots of present-day injustice, including exploitation and discrimination, pulling to pieces the discourse on Roma vulnerability and  the ‘Roma problem.’” “We would not need any integration policy if we benefited from a just treatment throughout our history, she says. “'Aferim!' speaks, in many ways, to all embedded biases in our Romanian culture, and also mocks them in a manner that could potentially help Romanians understand present-day discrimination against Roma and other groups, and how ridiculous and outdated racism should be.” Asked why learning about Roma is important for Americans, Margareta points out that there is a need to build solidarity with the Roma. However, she also stresses that Romani communities face stigmatization on the American soil as well: “There is an idea in the U.S. that the gypsies are not a people; it’s rather a way of life: bohemian, free spirit. The truth is that we have quite a large Romani population here in the United States, about a million people. Also, reality shows, Hollywood movies, and many other cultural products continue to portray Roma solely in stereotypical images and that adds to the stereotypical ways in which some Americans perceive this population. Fearing stigma, many Roma in the U.S. hide their identity.  In this context, there is a need for mobilization of Romani people in the U.S. in view of building a new discourse to balance the stereotypical ways in which some Americans perceive this population."

  • Roundtable on Fighting Anti-Semitism Looks at Turning Words into Action

    On March 1, 2017, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) hosted a roundtable discussion in Washington focusing on the active role of civil society organizations in the United States and Europe to combat anti-Semitism and violent hate crime.  “Turning Words Into Action: Addressing Anti-Semitism and Intolerance in the OSCE Region” featured opening remarks by ODIHR Director Michael Link and Senator Ben Cardin, who serves as the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Special Representative on Anti-Semitism, Racism, and Intolerance. Helsinki Commission Chairman Senator Roger Wicker offered closing remarks.  Director Link underscored the continuing importance of the OSCE in helping participating States meet their human rights commitments, including through the new OSCE/ODIHR Words Into Action to Address Anti-Semitism project to prevent and respond to anti-Semitism through security, education, and coalition-building initiatives.  “We...assist the participating States, state authorities, parliaments, civil society, [and] media, …concentrating especially...on security, on education and on coalition-building [including] the development of resources to better equip governments and civil society, to address the security needs of Jewish communities.  It includes the development and publication of the practical security guide, an online platform for reporting anti-Semitic hate crimes, hate speech, discrimination and other incidents of intolerance.” Noting the need for immediate action in response to recent threats made against Jewish institutions in the United States over the past month, OSCE PA Special Representative Senator Cardin reiterated the importance of the ODIHR project and collective responsibility of political leaders to act, including by supporting coalitions and youth-led initiatives.  He highlighted the importance of collaboration between local law enforcement, school administrators, and civil society in addressing security needs for Jewish communities citing recent incidents in the state of Maryland.  “Now, it’s not just Maryland.  It’s happening throughout the entire country...This is a problem throughout the OSCE region," he said. Senator Cardin continued, "It’s not limited to anti-Semitism...Nothing would help more to stop these calls about bomb scares or to stop the desecration of cemeteries or what we see at places of worship than [to] get some people prosecuted for these crimes and convicted for these crimes.  Any act of vandalism or violence is wrong.  But when it’s motivated by hate, it should be elevated to a higher level.  And that’s what we’ve done by our hate crime laws, and that’s what we’ve done by our special units in law enforcement.  And we need to support those efforts, put the spotlight on it and let the public know that we won’t tolerate that type of hate activities in our community.” Following the introductory remarks, expert panelists Cristina Finch, Head, Tolerance and Non-Discrimination Department, OSCE/ODIHR, Stacy Burdett, Director of Government Relations, Anti-Defamation League, Mark Weitzman, Director of Government Affairs, Simon Wiesenthal Center, Susan Corke, Director, Antisemitism and Extremism, Human Rights First, moderated by  Dr. Mischa Thompson of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, explored current challenges and recent initiatives in addressing anti-Semitism and increased prejudice and discrimination in the 57 participating States of the OSCE. Roundtable participants focused on the need for increased efforts to address the surge in anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. and Europe, and ways to strengthen relationships between the Jewish community, law enforcement and other actors to address continuing prejudices and violence.  Additionally, they provided concrete recommendations for next steps for the OSCE/ODIHR and Members of Congress.    The event closed with remarks from Chairman Wicker, who emphasized the importance civil society and leadership to address the problem, noting, “It has to be encouraging that the president would mention Black History Month and anti-Semitism... in the first 60 seconds of his speech [before the Joint Session of Congress and] something that the international community would take notice of.”

  • The Helsinki Commission, Forty Years Ago and Today

    Spencer Oliver saw the foundation of the Helsinki Commission as its first Chief of Staff, from 1976 to 1985. After subsequent service as Chief Counsel at the House Foreign Affairs Committee, he served as the first Secretary General of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly from October 1992 to December 2015. Spencer Oliver, a personal witness to the diplomacy that brought trans-Atlantic relations from the Cold War era to the present, recently paid a visit to the Helsinki Commission offices he first opened in 1976.  After a nine-year tenure as the Commission’s first Chief of Staff, Mr. Oliver remained involved with the Helsinki Process through his subsequent career in the Congress and at the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. Mr. Oliver gave a short interview on the Commission’s accomplishments over four decades, and prospects for the future. Before the establishment of the Helsinki Commission in 1976, Oliver observed, “human rights were not really a component of U.S. foreign policy. It was the Commission that made a strong effort for President Carter to make human rights a definite element in his foreign policy portfolio.” He recalled a private foreign policy strategy meeting in the fall of 1976 with then-candidate Jimmy Carter’s foreign policy team. Then-Helsinki Commission Chairman Dante B. Fascell, a U.S. Representative from Florida, made a pitch about why human rights should be on Carter’s agenda.  Senator Hubert Humphrey, a very close friend and advisor to Carter, slammed his hand on the table and said, “By golly, Dante’s right! Human rights ought to be one of the principal pillars of the Carter foreign policy!” After Carter took office, Chairman Fascell and his staff, including Mr. Oliver, met with the new President’s Secretary of State, Cyrus Vance, to discuss a plan to make human rights a U.S. foreign policy priority. They recommended that: 1) the State Department position of “Coordinator of Humanitarian Affairs” be elevated to a full Bureau for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs; 2) Patricia M. Derian, a civil rights activist from Mississippi, become the first Assistant Secretary of State to head that Bureau; 3) the Assistant Secretary also become the State Department’s representative on the Helsinki Commission; and 4) the Helsinki Commission be fully integrated into inter-agency CSCE planning and the U.S. Delegation to the upcoming CSCE Review Meeting in Belgrade. The Secretary agreed and implemented these recommendations, despite resistance within the State Department. “Without Dante Fascell and Patt Derian, human rights probably would not have had the place it eventually did in American foreign policy,” Oliver observed. Oliver mentioned with sadness the passing of Derian in May 2016. Mr. Oliver explained that the Helsinki Commission was also partly responsible for creating the practice of human rights implementation, review, and accountability. At the 1977 Belgrade Review Meeting, the Helsinki Commission participants in the U.S. Delegation articulated specific cases of human rights abuses and violations of the Helsinki Accords committed by the Soviet Union. In response, the Soviet delegation shot back with criticisms of U.S. human rights issues, such as racism and poverty, to which the United States responded by investigating and reporting factually on these concerns. By publishing a human rights compliance report, the United States set a precedent for accountability on the part of all Helsinki Final Act signatory states. “The Helsinki Accords,” Oliver explained, “were not just about how the countries treat one another, but also about how countries treat their own citizens.” Noting that, today, Russia’s human rights conditions are worse than they have been since the collapse of the USSR, Mr. Oliver recalled moments that looked more promising. Accompanying Fascell to Moscow in April 1986, he was among the first American officials to meet with Mikhail Gorbachev after his consolidation of power as leader of the Soviet Union. In a four-hour meeting at the Kremlin on a Saturday morning, Mr. Oliver expected Gorbachev to find recourse to concerns raised by displaying the same defensiveness and counter-criticism as previous Soviet leaders. Instead, Gorbachev was honest about the issues his country was facing, and expressed his intention to enact economic and political reforms to open the Soviet Union up to the rest of the world. Mr. Oliver left that meeting feeling encouraged about the direction of the USSR. This progressive streak in Russian leadership was short-lived, as illustrated by Vladimir Putin’s increasingly authoritarian rule and denial of basic freedoms. Mr. Oliver believes that Putin’s rise to power and current popularity result from the turmoil and economic devastation of the 1990s, compounded with his tight grip on the media. “There’s no country in the world where the dictator controls the media and he isn’t running at 80 percent in the polls,” he said. In terms of U.S. policy towards Russia, Mr. Oliver believes that strengthening and widening those economic sanctions already in place would put the most pressure on the Russian government to change its ways. “When the Russians invaded Crimea, they broke every one of the ten principles of the Helsinki Final Act,” he said.  “We should let the Russians know that we don’t intend to back off until they change their ways.” In the meantime, the Commission can continue to play an important role maintaining the gains made in promoting human rights through bilateral as well as multilateral diplomacy.

  • Helsinki Commission Honored for Work on Ukraine

    At yesterday’s 2016 Ukraine in Washington forum, the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation recognized the Helsinki Commission for four decades of support for Ukraine and Ukrainian dissidents. “Long before Ukraine’s independence and the formation of the House and Senate Ukraine Caucuses, we must remember there was the Congressional Helsinki Commission,” said Robert McConnell, co-founder of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation. “It was doing everything possible to shine international klieg lights on Ukraine’s human rights issues, from its political prisoners to the illegality of the Ukrainian Catholic Church.”  The Helsinki Commission has a long history of supporting Ukrainians’ aspirations for human rights and democracy, even prior to independence when Ukraine – the largest non-Russian republic in the Soviet Union – was viewed as a particular threat to Moscow’s rule. Since 1991, the Commission has been a strong supporter of the development of an independent, secure, democratic Ukraine. The Commission was instrumental in introducing and ensuring passage of the original resolution calling for the U.S. to recognize Ukraine’s independence in the face of State Department opposition.  In the intervening 25 years, Helsinki Commission hearings, briefings, and other activities have highlighted issues including Chornobyl; the state of democracy and rule of law; the political situation in Ukraine; elections; and – more recently – Russia’s war against Ukraine and human rights violations in Crimea and the occupied territories of the Donbas.  “We know the Ukrainian people want freedom and democracy, whether it be in Crimea or other parts of the country,” said Helsinki Commission Chairman Christopher Smith (NJ-04). “Yet we find again that this persistent aggression by the Russians—which is reminiscent of Soviet times—continues to make the freedom, democracy, and prosperity that the people so richly deserve that much harder to achieve.” (View video.) Commissioners have also played an active role in the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly on Ukraine, especially in condemning Russia’s aggression and violation of all core OSCE principles enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act. Commission leadership has led several Congressional delegations to Ukraine, including three since Russia’s invasion, and the Commission has observed virtually every national election in Ukraine since 1990. “The Helsinki Commission’s efforts then and now must never be forgotten as they were – though often like cries in the wilderness – critically important in keeping the truth of Ukraine alive and in providing a rallying point for so many efforts that eventually helped Ukraine shed the Kremlin’s shackles,” McConnell said. “The Helsinki Commission for decades was like a beacon of hope. It was an outside promise for the Ukrainian Helsinki Group and a critical source of support for Ukrainian-Americans and so many others as they persevered in their quest for freedom against what seemed like insurmountable odds.”

  • Five Years of the Transatlantic Inclusion Leaders Network

    2016 marks the fifth anniversary of the Transatlantic Inclusion Leaders Network (TILN), an innovative project of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, in cooperation with the U.S. State Department, German Marshall Fund, and other stakeholders that prepares diverse, young leaders with a global outlook. TILN bridges the transatlantic divide between the U.S. and Europe by annually bringing together driven individuals from a range of political backgrounds for a week-long workshop focused on inclusive leadership. Workshops take place in European cities ranging from Copenhagen to Brussels to Turin – allowing participants to immerse themselves in international policy-making at national and regional levels.  Participants engage with public and private sector figures while shaping their personal missions and strengthening leadership skills to support careers in public service and transformative initiatives that will promote more equitable societies.  The TILN project already boasts an impressive list of alumni, including U.S. Congressman Ruben Gallego, Swedish Parliamentarian Said Abdu, UN Expert on Minority Issues Rita Iszak, and other Parliamentarians, Ministers, Mayors, City Councilpersons, regional and local leaders. During its five-year history, TILN annual workshops have highlighted issues of special interest to the US Helsinki Commission from the ongoing struggle to realize Roma and migrant rights to racism, anti-Semitism, and religious discrimination.  Additionally, many TILN alumni support innovative initiatives that promote equality and inclusion in their home countries through alumni Action Grants that allow former participants to maintain their connections, further the work of multinational inclusion, and maximize the impact of collective action. For example, former German and Dutch participants have launched national inclusive leadership programs inspired by TILN. The German “Network Inclusive Leaders” program (NILE), created by Gabriele Gün Tank and Daniel Gyamerah of the TILN class of 2013, is a week-long seminar that provides 20 diverse young adults with an opportunity to engage with German political leaders, academics, artists, and others on anti-racism and anti-discrimination efforts. Following the 2016 TILN event, Dutch alumni Mpanzu Bamenga and Kamran Ullah – along with GMF’s Marshall Memorial Fellows Ahmed Larouz and Mei Ling Liem – launched the “Inclusion Leaders Network” in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The event successfully brought together more than 40 community and political leaders from different parties and sectors to discuss tools and strategies to increase inclusion in political, economic, and education sectors. Both the NILE and the Inclusive Leadership Network have enjoyed the support of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, State Department, GMF, and other stakeholders. Hosted by Helsinki Commissioner Representative Alcee L. Hastings, TILN experts and alumni Simon Woolley, Assita Kanko, Gabriele Gün Tank, and David Mark also attended the 2014 three-day Quad Caucus meeting of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL), the National Asian Pacific Caucus of State Legislators (NAPACSL), the National Caucus of Native American State Legislators (NCNASAL), and the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL) in the United States.  In his opening remarks to the Quad Caucus, Commissioner Hastings highlighted the importance of inclusive and representative governance in all countries.  The TILN delegation followed with a panel discussion on the similarity between the U.S. and Europe on experiences of Roma, Muslim, Afro-descent, and other diverse communities, leading to support for joint U.S.-Europe partnerships and initiatives from members of the Quad Caucus. As a result of these meetings, the TILN alumni network was able to organize a speaking tour in Germany for Ajenai Clemmons of NBCSL – a 2015 TILN participant – to share the U.S. minority caucus model in Germany. The momentum of the Quad Caucus also advanced development of anti-discrimination legislation authored by TILN alumni Mpanzu Bamenga in the Netherlands, which was later adopted by Eindhoven City Council. The U.S. Helsinki Commission congratulates TILN on five successful years, and looks forward to witnessing further fruits of the Network as alumni continue to advance inclusive policymaking, thought, and leadership in our societies.

  • Witness Profile: Dr. Valery Perry

    Dr. Valery Perry was one of four expert witnesses at the Helsinki Commission’s May 25, 2016 hearing, “Combatting Corruption in Bosnia and Herzegovina.” Dr. Perry’s interest in Bosnia began in 1997, when she helped supervise the country’s first municipal elections. Seeing it as a “fascinating example of a peace process,” she completed her Ph.D. research in Bosnia while simultaneously working for several organizations on aspects of peace implementation, democratization, and good governance. During the early post-war years, Perry believes that many Bosnians felt that the situation in the country was improving. However, today there seems to be a sense that the country’s development has not only stagnated, but may even be regressing. During the negotiations of the Dayton Accords, Bosnian citizens were not consulted about the ramifications of the agreement or the new constitution, Perry notes, although they have had to live with the consequences. “It’s troubling for me to think that the United States and some of its allies put in place a peace agreement and a framework constitution that may have served its purpose at one point, but is now actually limiting the ability for citizens to create the vision that they want and to hold their leaders accountable,” she says. “One thing you hear all the time when you talk to people who are from Sarajevo is that the city was very different before the war,” Perry continues. “There are so many people in Bosnia who just want the same things anyone anywhere wants – a decent job, good education for their children, safe streets…. and yet they are so poorly served by this post-war system.” As a result, she observes, the lack of social trust in Bosnia is pervasive. “There’s almost a built-in, learned helplessness, especially among young people who have grown up in a fairly dysfunctional system…assuming that if they don’t join a political party they’ll never get a job, and if they’re not prepared to either use connections or possibly even pay a bribe they won’t pass their exams at the university.” “It became very clear to me that corruption is at the heart of what happens when you don’t have good governance, when you don’t have an accountable electoral system, when you don’t have independent media, and when you don’t have a functioning judiciary,” she says. For example, in Bosnia it is rare to hear of corruption cases that are investigated, prosecuted, and have successfully progressed through the entire appeals process. “The judicial system is really not independent,” she says. “We see a lot of cases where someone is found guilty of corruption or abuse of office, but then there are simply repeated appeals until they get the judge and the decision that they want…everything is politicized and divided according to ethnic and national affiliation rather than merit and civic responsibility.” As a first step to addressing the systematic corruption, Perry recommends strengthening laws on conflict of interest, political party financing and state enterprise regulation and transparency. “It would be useful to look at a number of pieces of legislation that are either weak or have recently been weakened, and try to strengthen those…any reforms that lead to legislation need to be accompanied by very clear articulation of which agencies are competent and responsible for seeing them through,” she suggests. “There [also] needs to be vigorous oversight by investigative journalists and civil society actors and others to move forward.” According to Perry, the United States and the international community can support anti-corruption efforts, but the challenge is complicated. “These issues should become a part of election campaigns and debates,” she says. “I think that this is where the US and other international actors involved in Bosnia can get involved as well: by supporting activists and citizens who are in the public debate and together asking, why any officials or candidates would be against more transparency in terms of appointment to the enterprises, or support opaque financing from the public purse?” In addition to her anti-corruption work, Dr. Perry is also working on a documentary film – “Looking for Dayton” – which follows the experience of three men who fought in Sarajevo during the siege and who visit the US and Dayton Ohio 20 years after the end of the war to find out more about the place that shaped the peace and the Dayton Agreement. She says, “We have a lot of work to do but we’re hoping to use the medium of film to tell a story that is interesting in terms of broader issues related to war and its aftermath and its effect on regular people.”   

  • Witness Profile: Ambassador Jonathan Moore

    Ambassador Jonathan Moore is the OSCE’s ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and has spent most of his career working on the Balkans. He testified at the Helsinki Commission’s May 25, 2016 hearing, “Combatting Corruption in Bosnia and Herzegovina.” Corruption is one of the biggest problems in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Ambassador Moore is particularly concerned about its dire effects on young people. “It’s an obstacle that drives young people out of the country and it keeps investors away,” he says. “Corruption needs to be combatted on all levels and I am very glad this hearing talked about it.” He identifies part of the problem as lack of privatization, and notes that political patronage plays a significant role in public enterprises like schools and universities. “There hasn’t been much privatization in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” he says. “Imagine you are a 14-year-old and you’re very smart and have great grades. You want to go to a certain kind of public high school—a gymnasium. Well, you might not get admitted unless you have the right kind of political connections. As a 14-year-old, you are not selected because you don’t have the right connections, or you’re not bribing the right people.” The cycle continues at the stage of university applications; graduates seeking jobs in public enterprises continue to face the same challenge. “Again, political patronage and political control,” he explains. “If you don’t fulfill the right criteria politically—it’s not about how smart you are—you don’t get the job you want. So it’s easier to say, ‘Enough,’ and leave. The bottom line is that politics is everything in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and that’s why I started and ended [my testimony] by saying all politics is local.” Ambassador Moore argues very strongly for action at the local level, especially in the 143 municipalities around the country, each with its own mayor. “In many of these cases, these mayors are very innovative and very perceptive,” he notes. “They’ve worked across religious and ethnic lines with their constituents, their fellow neighbors. Mayors don’t hide themselves off in offices in some capital city. They live there, they see these people every day who ask, ‘Why is the school falling apart?’ and say, ‘Fix the sidewalk,’ or ‘The sewer is backed up into my apartment building.’” Ambassador Moore thinks it is important to shine a light on those local officials who have desegregated the schools and are speaking up for different ethnic communities. “We have examples from the flood of 2014, where we saw [a mayor] who made sure that the resources went to all the victims and not just to his friends. Giving credit where credit is due to the positive examples, rather than just saying, ‘It’s a huge problem and nothing can be done,’ is of great merit.” Ambassador Moore believes that it is important to understand the importance of investing in the security and stability of the international realm. Countries without conflict, including Bosnia, are safer, better trading partners, and are more conducive to developing the innovative skills of the young generation. “When you have a country in this cycle of conflict, nobody has the time, resources, energy, or money to put ideas on the table in a positive way,” he says.

  • OSCE Foreign Ministers Meet in Belgrade

    Serbia’s year-long chairmanship of the OSCE culminated in Belgrade in the annual meeting of the OSCE Ministerial Council on December 3 and 4, 2015.  Key issues addressed in the context of Ministerial discussions included: Ongoing efforts to de-escalate the Russia-Ukraine crisis and the need for Russia to fully implement the Minsk Agreements. Reaffirmation of the Helsinki Final Act and subsequent commitments and the comprehensive nature of security (i.e., respect for fundamental freedoms within a state has an impact on the security between states). The assault on human dignity and human rights, including through terrorist attacks, the continued rollback on rights and freedoms in the OSCE area, and the refugee and migration crisis. Secretary of State John Kerry led the U.S. delegation, which also included Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland; Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Robert Berschinski; Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Central Asia Daniel N. Rosenblum; and Helsinki Commission Senior Senate Staff Representative Ambassador David T. Killion. The atmosphere was strained, as tensions between Ukraine and Russia, Russia and Turkey, and Armenia and Azerbaijan spilled over into the negotiations. As Russia blocked virtually all decisions on human rights, as well as on the migration crisis and on gender issues, only a handful of documents were adopted. Successful declarations addressed recent terrorist attacks in the OSCE region, combating violent extremism that leads to terrorism, and addressing the illicit drug trade.

  • Germany to Lead OSCE in 2016

    Germany will serve as OSCE Chair-in-Office in 2016. Germany has indicated it will continue the work on youth exchanges initiated by the previous Serbian and Swiss chairmanships. In the human dimension, Germany will focus on: Freedom of the press and freedom of information, independence of the media, and the safety of journalists. Protection of minorities. Combating political extremism, intolerance and discrimination, including anti-Semitism and integration issues related to migrants. Strengthening the rights of women.

  • OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting 2015

    “The Human Dimension” is OSCE-speak for human rights, democracy, and humanitarian concerns.  When the Helsinki Final Act (HFA) was signed in Helsinki, Finland in 1975, it enshrined among its ten Principles Guiding Relations between participating States (the Decalogue) a commitment to "respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience religion or belief, for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion" (Principle VII). In addition, the HFA included a section on cooperation regarding humanitarian issues that provided an umbrella for addressing (among other things) family reunification and working conditions for journalists. "The Human Dimension" was a term coined during the drafting of the 1989 Vienna Concluding Document to serve as shorthand to describe the human rights and humanitarian provisions of the agreements concluded within the framework of the Helsinki process. Today, it has come to include the OSCE’s watershed commitments on democracy, the rule of law, and free and fair elections. In any given year, the OSCE participating States address human dimension issues in multiple fora.  The Human Dimension Implementation Meeting – HDIM – attracts the largest number of participants, covers the greatest range of issues, and is open to participation by civil society. That work includes formal sessions on the full range of human rights  issues as well as rule of law, free elections, and democracy-building issues. National minorities, Roma, and tolerance and nondiscrimination are also on the agenda.  U.S. Delegation Led by David Kramer The 2015 HDIM was held September 21 to October 2 and drew 1,386 participants.  The U.S. delegation was led by David J. Kramer, Senior Director for Human Rights and Human Freedoms at the McCain Institute and former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.  It also included U.S. Ambassador to the OSCE Daniel Baer; Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Robert Berschinksi; Department of State Special Advisor for International Rights Judith Heumann; and Helsinki Commission Senior Senate Staff Representative Ambassador David T. Killion.  Helsinki Commission staff participated in all aspects of the delegation’s work. In addition to active engagement in the formal sessions, the United States participated in side events focused on specific countries or issues organized by civil society, OSCE participating States, or international organizations, and held numerous bilateral meetings with other delegations to raise and discuss human rights.  Special Advisor Heumann led a panel highlighting the importance of disability rights for OSCE countries as part of a U.S. side event cosponsored with Finland. Russia: External Aggression and Internal Repression During the HDIM, Russia’s aggression in and against Ukraine was raised in connection with almost every agenda item for the meeting.  The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) also issued a joint report prepared with the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities detailing widespread human rights violations in Russian-occupied Crimea.  Increasing levels of repression within Russia also were raised throughout the HDIM and served to highlight the relationship between external aggression and internal repression. In early 2015, Boris Nemtsov, an advocate for the rule of law and accountability in Russia and an outspoken Russian critic of the Russian government’s war against Ukraine, was gunned down just outside the Kremlin.  Russia’s increasingly repressive government has eroded the democratic institutions that ensure a government’s accountability to its people. A free and independent media is virtually nonexistent and the remaining state-controlled media is used to propagandize disinformation, fear, bigotry, and aggression. Azerbaijan’s Record Draws Sharp Criticism In 2015 Azerbaijan unilaterally shuttered the OSCE Mission in Baku, effectively blocked the OSCE’s independent election observation in October, and sentenced journalist-heroine Khadija Ismayilova to 7 ½ years in prison for reporting on government corruption.  The government of Azerbaijan has also escalated pressure against the family members of its critics, in a further effort to stifle dissent.  As a consequence, throughout the HDIM, Azerbaijan was the subject of singular attention and criticism. In one particularly sharp exchange with the moderator during the discussion of fundamental freedoms in the digital age, Azerbaijan challenged its critics to name at least 25 of an estimated 100 political prisoners.  A partial list – 25 names – is below. Abilov, Abdul Aliyev, Intigam Aliyev, Nijat Akhundov, Rashadat Guliyev, Araz Hasanov, Nasimi Hashimli, Parviz Hazi, Seymur Ismayilova, Khadija Jabrayilova, Valida Jafarov, Rasul Karimov, Fara Mammadli, Anar Mammadov, Hilal Mammadov, Igar Mammadov, Omar Mirkadirov, Rauf Ramazanov, Rashad Rustamov, Aliabbas Rustamzada, Ilkin Seyidov, Elnur Yagublu, Tofig Yunusov, Arif** Yunus, Leyla** Zakharchenko, Irina **Leyla and Arif Yunus have been released from prison since the HDIM but remain under house arrest.

  • What is the OSCE Doing in Ukraine?

    In Ukraine, the OSCE monitors the cease-fire, weapons withdrawal, and overall security situation in eastern Ukraine. In addition, the OSCE has observed local elections and reports on widespread human rights violations in Russian-occupied Crimea. Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) Mandate adopted by consensus on March 21, 2014 and extended until March 31, 2016 634 international monitors as of November 18, 2015 Posts daily updates at OSCE.org Has encountered episodes of hostage-taking and been fired upon OSCE Observer Mission at the Russian Checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk Mandate adopted by consensus on July 24, 2014 Gathers information and reports on the security situation at the two checkpoints Minsk Agreement Adopted September 5, 2014, by Russia, Ukraine, and Russian-backed separatists under OSCE auspices OSCE tasked with monitoring its implementation, including the cease-fire and weapons withdrawal Minsk II Adopted February 11, 2015 Continues work of Minsk agreement OSCE Election Observation Observed local elections in 2015 Joint report by ODIHR & HCNM on Russian-occupied Crimea ODIHR and HCNM report released September 17, 2015, identifies widespread human rights violations

  • Serbia Concludes Year-Long OSCE Chairmanship

    Four decades after the signature of the Helsinki Final Act, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic presided over a Serbian chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) that kicked off with high expectations.  As a successor to the only participating State ever suspended from OSCE decision-making for egregious violation of Helsinki standards (1992 to 2000), the ability of Serbia to chair the organization was a credit not only to the country, but also to the OSCE which provided significant guidance and engagement through the transition.  Throughout Serbia’s chairmanship, the situation in Ukraine dominated the work of the OSCE participating States, including at the annual OSCE Parliamentary Assembly meeting.  This overshadowed efforts to commemorate the Helsinki Final Act’s 40th anniversary, as the OSCE’s future was considered to hinge on the Minsk agreements and its response to the crisis in and around Ukraine. Ukraine Russia’s egregious violations of the Minsk agreement led to its collapse in January 2015.  Minsk II, adopted in February 2015, represents a further attempt to de-escalate the war in the Donbas. After six months of non-implementation, a September 1 cease-fire has largely held, with considerably fewer casualties than earlier, although there has been an uptick in recent weeks.  Heavy weapons are slowly being withdrawn from the line of contact.  Nevertheless, the agreement remains extremely tentative as Russia and its separatist proxies continue to disregard the majority of its provisions:  Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) access remains blocked in large portions of the Russian-led separatist-controlled territory; Russian forces and equipment remain on Ukrainian territory; Ukrainian control over its borders with Russia has not been restored.  Furthermore, restrictions continue on humanitarian aid and Ukrainian hostages remain in Russian custody.  Terrorism 2015 was also scarred by numerous terrorist attacks in the OSCE region, including incidents targeting Jewish institutions and free speech in Paris and Copenhagen in January and February; the bombing of a Russian civilian airliner over the Sinai Peninsula in October; an attack in Turkey just three weeks before November 1 snap elections; and multiple, simultaneous attacks again in Paris in November.  On November 17, the Permanent Council adopted a declaration on the need to combat by all means, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and international law–including applicable international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law–threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts. Refugee Crisis Issues relating to the refugee crisis became more acute over the course of the year.  In early June, the Serbian Chairmanship held a special human dimension event on refugees and internally displaced persons.  On October 6, following significant increases of migrant flows into Europe, the Serbian Chairmanship convened an unprecedented joint meeting of the Permanent Council’s three committees (on military-security, economic and environmental cooperation, and the human dimension) to focus on the refugee-migrant crisis. Finally, many hoped that Serbia’s positive experience hosting a field mission would serve as an example to other participating States cooperating with OSCE field activity.  Unfortunately, turned out not to be the case, as illustrated by the abrupt closure of the mission in Baku. In addition, Serbia – missed an opportunity in 2015 to more strongly exemplify OSCE norms by providing justice for the 1999 execution-style murders of the three Kosovar-American Bytyqi brothers, a key issue in U.S.-Serbian relations.

  • The OSCE 2013 Human Dimension Implementation Meeting

    By Helsinki Commission Staff Overview From September 23 to October 4, 2013, the OSCE participating States met in Warsaw, Poland, for the annual Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM). The meeting was organized by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) according to an agenda approved by consensus of all 57 participating States. The HDIM is Europe’s largest annual human rights gathering and provides a venue for participating States and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to review the implementation of the full range of core human rights and fundamental freedoms (e.g., freedoms of speech, assembly and association; prevention of torture; right to a fair trial), as well as rule of law, free elections and democracy-building issues. National minorities, Roma, tolerance and non-discrimination are also on the agenda. In accordance with OSCE procedures, the agenda included three specially selected topics, each of which was given a full day of review. In 2013, those subjects were: 1) freedom of religion or belief, 2) freedom of assembly and association, and 3) democratic elections and election observation -- sharing best practices. U.S. Delegation The U.S. Delegation was headed by Ambassador Robert Bradtke. Newly confirmed U.S. Head of the U.S. Mission to the OSCE Ambassador Daniel Baer also participated.  (During the HDIM, meetings of the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna are suspended to facilitate participation by members of permanent missions to the OSCE in the Warsaw meeting.)  Other members of the U.S. Delegation included Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Thomas O. Melia, Special Envoy for Combating Anti-Semitism Ira Forman, and Co-Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Katrina Lantos Swett.  Helsinki Commission Chief of Staff Fred L. Turner and other Commission staff participated in all aspects of the delegation’s work. Gavin Weise from the International Foundation for Electoral Systems served as a public member on the issue of democratic elections and election observation. Public Members have traditionally been included in U.S. delegations to OSCE human dimension meetings as a means of bringing special expertise to the delegation’s work and to promote greater knowledge of the OSCE process in civil society. This Year’s Meeting As the meeting opened, the high-profile case of imprisoned former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko remained unresolved, casting a pall on Ukraine’s OSCE Chairmanship. GOLOS, a Russian NGO that reports on the integrity of elections in Russia, remained suspended in a wave of increased repression; Russian representatives protested against GOLOS participation at the HDIM. Former political prisoner and RFE/RL correspondent Dovletmyrat Yazkuliyev was not allowed to leave Turkmenistan to participate in the HDIM. Kazakhstani businessman Mukhtar Ablyazov and several of his former colleagues were held in various countries on the request of the government of Kazakhstan – while his wife and daughter were illegally deported from Italy to Kazakhstan. The U.S. statements from the HDIM, raising these and many other specific cases of concern, are available on the website of the U.S. mission to the OSCE (osce.usmission.gov). During the meeting, the United States held bilateral meetings with other OSCE participating States and extensive consultations with civil society. In addition, the United States organized a side event focused on one of this year's special topics, freedom of association and assembly, with a panel of activists from the Civil Society Platform:  Yevgeniy Zhovtis, International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law (Kazakhstan), Valeria Rybok from the Center for Civil Liberties (Ukraine), Dmitri Makarov from the International Youth Human Rights Initiative (Russia), Aleh Hulak, Belarusian Helsinki Commission, and Rasul Jafarov from the Human Rights Club (Azerbaijan).  Speakers described many negative trends across Eurasian and Central Asian states, including onerous registration requirements for civil society organizations, restrictions on peaceful demonstrations, and prosecutions of protestors.  The panel and other attendees also emphasized the importance of a network through which regional civil society organizations could share experiences and effective activities. Other side events were organized by ODIHR, participating States, and NGOs including Freedom House, Amnesty International, Human Rights First, the Open Society Foundations, and the German Marshall Fund.  As at past HDIM meetings, some concerns were raised about the United States, including at side events focused on the abolition of the death penalty and on human rights and counterterrorism (which touched on Guantánamo, drones, and surveillance/privacy issues). Switzerland held a side event during the HDIM to preview its goals for its 2014 tandem chairmanship (with Serbia taking the lead in 2015). Switzerland indicated that its two over-arching human dimension priorities will be to enhance the involvement of civil society and to strengthen the implementation of human dimension commitments. During what promises to be an active and ambitious chairmanship, Switzerland plans to hold four regional workshops with civil society in Southeast Europe, the Southern Caucasus, Central Asia, and Western Europe. During the regular working sessions, several concerns were raised repeatedly, including violence against journalists, harassment of NGOs and restrictive NGO registration laws, and government actions against religious groups portrayed by some governments as non-traditional.  Russia received significant criticism over its Foreign Agents law. (There also were a number of apparently Russian-sponsored “NGOs” which criticized the United States, supported independence for South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and hewed to anti-Baltic state themes.) Problems in Central Asia received considerable attention, including the disappearance of some prisoners in Turkmenistan and the cases of Vladimir Kozlov and Mukhtar Ablyazov in Kazakhstan.  During the HDIM, the NGO Crude Accountability and the Civic Solidarity Platform launched a project called “Prove that They are Alive.”  Designed to follow up on the 2003 invocation of the OSCE Moscow Mechanism with Turkmenistan, the initiative is intended to compel the government of Turkmenistan to inform the families of those imprisoned in connection with an alleged coup attempt in 2002 whether their loved ones are still alive. As at previous HDIMs, the allocation of time during the meeting was highly problematic.  Of the topics restricted to three-hour sessions, the subject of tolerance and non-discrimination was the most oversubscribed.  This session included discussion of the implementation of existing OSCE hate crimes commitments; combating anti-Semitism, intolerance against Muslims and other religious groups; racism and xenophobia; and anti-LGBT bigotry manifested through, in particular, “gay propaganda” laws. In such oversubscribed sessions, speaking time was strictly curtailed to accommodate the dozens desiring the floor, while other sessions ended early with time unused. Notably, Thailand, an OSCE Partner for Cooperation, actively participated in this year’s HDIM, perhaps in order to bolster its application to become a full OSCE participating State.

  • Bulgaria Holds Early Parliamentary Elections; OSCE Mounts Full-Scale Election Observation Mission

    By Helsinki Commission Staff Country-Wide Street Protests Trigger Snap Elections In early 2013, 30 Bulgarian cities were rocked by demonstrations. In some instances, violence erupted between demonstrators and police. In addition, in the months immediately preceding the elections, six people committed suicide by self-immolation in acts of public protest and desperation. The street demonstrations were triggered by sharply rising electricity rates in a country widely described as the poorest of the EU’s 27 members. Discontent was further fueled by dissatisfaction with political leaders across the board and widespread corruption. In February, following the street demonstrations, Prime Minister Boyko Borisov resigned, paving the way for May 12’s early parliamentary elections. For those elections, 8,100 candidates stood for seats in the 240-member unicameral National Assembly allocated by proportional representation from 31 multi-mandate constituencies (with a 4% threshold for both parties and coalitions to enter parliament). Altogether, 63 parties (38 outside of coalitions and 7 coalitions) were registered as well as two independent candidates. The resulting ballot was roughly a yard long. OSCE Mounts Full-Scale Election Observation Mission The OSCE mounted a full scale Election Observation Mission (EOM) – the first in Bulgaria since 1997 and the first ever in an EU country. Eoghan Murphy (MP, Ireland) was appointed by OSCE Chair-in-Office Leonid Kozhara to serve as Special Coordinator and leader of the short-term observer mission (parliamentarians and observers seconded by OSCE participating States). The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) long-term observer team was headed by Miklos Haraszti. Roberto Battelli (MP, Slovenia) headed the OSCE PA delegation. Andreas Gross (MP, Switzerland) headed the observers from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). On Election Day, there were 158 observers deployed from 39 countries. Of an estimated 6.9 million voters (a number that, in any case, the OSCE and Council of Europe Venice Commission suggest may be high), 3,541,745 went to the polls. Voter turnout was at about 50 percent – the lowest turnout since the fall of communism – reflecting the voters’ antipathy even more than apathy. Approximately 850,000 votes were cast for parties that failed to overcome the 4% threshold to get into parliament. Reportedly 107,799 Bulgarian citizens voted abroad, with 63,152 votes cast in Turkey. The Mysterious Case of the Extra Ballots The administration of the elections on E-Day was largely unremarkable. It was, however, preceded by two separate but related wiretapping scandals suggesting that the Ministry of Interior had bugged journalists and state officials. The day before the elections, an “extra” 350,000 ballots were discovered in a printing house in Sofia. (A week after the elections, it was reported that more than 2,000 extra stamps for electoral commissions had also surfaced.) In its preliminary findings, the Election Observation Mission drew particular attention to the alienation of voters, lack of confidence in the electoral process, concerns over ballot security (the “extra” ballots), and persistent allegations of vote buying or voter intimidation. (A final report from the Mission is forthcoming.) Roma and Other Minorities in the Electoral Context Bulgaria has a population of 7.36 million (from almost 8 million in the 2001 census and roughly 8.4 million in the 1992 census). This continuing drop reflects declining birth rates and labor migration to other parts of Europe. The ethnic Turkish minority comprises 8.8 percent of the population. Almost 5 percent of the population self-identified as Romani on the last census, but Roma are estimated to be roughly 10 percent of the population. Last year, the Bulgarian Government estimated that 23 percent of the working age population is Romani. The Bulgarian Constitution prohibits the formation of political parties on ethnic, racial or religious lines, which is contrary to OSCE and other international norms on freedom of assembly. The OSCE has criticized this restriction in previous reports on Bulgarian elections. The Electoral Code stipulates that the election campaign must be conducted in the Bulgarian language only, also contrary to standards on free speech and minority language use set out in the 1990 Copenhagen Document. These restrictions also impede get-out-the-vote efforts. The Movement for Rights and Freedoms is, de facto, an ethnic Turkish minority party, although it has largely been allowed to function with a wink and a nod from the authorities. After the elections, it was reported that Lyutvi Mestan, head of the MRF party, was fined in Sliven for campaigning in Turkish. Bulgaria's last two local and Presidential elections (which were held simultaneously in 2007 and 2011) were preceded by outbreaks of anti-Roma violence. In 2011, just a few weeks before the elections, 14 Bulgarian cities erupted into anti-Roma riots. In July 2012, the headquarters of the EuroRoma political party were firebombed, killing one man. The investigation has not produced any results. On April 8, 15 Romani civil society organizations withdrew from their advisory role with the National Council for Cooperation on Ethnic and Integration Issues, effectively deeming the government’s work in this area and the consultative process to be a sham. There were no Roma in electable positions on the lists for any of the leading parties. As a result, the National Assembly produced by the May 12 elections will be the first Bulgarian parliament since the fall of communism to have no Romani MPs.

  • Helsinki Commission Chairman Leads Delegation to Israel and Turkey before Attending OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Session

    By Helsinki Commission Staff En route to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Winter Meeting in Vienna, Austria, a delegation organized by the Helsinki Commission visited Israel and Turkey for talks on issues of key concern to U.S. foreign policy and the OSCE. These destinations in particular were selected to explore the impact on the OSCE region resulting from the ongoing tensions in the Middle East stemming from the active conflict and humanitarian crisis in Syria. The delegation was not only bipartisan but included Members from the Senate and House of Representatives, as well as two senior officials from the Department of Commerce. The delegation, which departed February 15 and returned on February 23, was led by Helsinki Commission Chairman Senator Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland and included Representatives Robert B. Aderholt of Alabama, Alcee L. Hastings of Florida and Mike McIntyre of North Carolina as well as Assistant Secretary of Commerce Michael C. Camuñez from the Helsinki Commission. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Europe and Eurasia Matthew Murray also joined the delegation. High Level Meetings in Israel The delegation’s first stop was Jerusalem. Following a late arrival on Saturday, February 16, the delegation was briefed by Ambassador Daniel Shapiro and Consul General Michael Ratney in preparation for meetings on Sunday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, the Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations (Mossad), Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and other officials. High on the delegation’s agenda were U.S.-Israeli relations, including economic cooperation, the peace process, renewal of Israeli-Turkish relations and regional security. President Peres welcomed the delegation in his residence and praised the work of the Helsinki Commission on human rights. Chairman Cardin and President Peres engaged in a lengthy conversation regarding the nuclear ambitions of Iran as well as human rights in that country. They also focused on investment and economic development in the region, particularly the need to provide employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for young people in the Arab world. Members of the delegation met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his cabinet offices for a wide ranging discussion on Iran, the peace process, violence in Syria, Israel-Turkey relations and economic cooperation between our two countries. The Prime Minister also offered a candid assessment of the January 22 parliamentary elections in Israel and his efforts to form a new government. Meeting with the delegation in the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad provided an overview of the economic and security situation in the West Bank, the status of Palestinian-Israeli relations and the peace process. The Prime Minister indicated that there is outright disillusionment with the peace process among the Palestinian people. What is badly needed, he said, is a sense of renewal and energy by both parties to return to negotiations. The remainder of the day included meetings with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intelligence and Atomic Energy, Dan Meridor, Central Bank Governor Stanley Fischer and a briefing by Israel’s Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations (Mossad). The delegation departed early the next morning for Turkey. Fostering Security Cooperation with Turkey Chairman Cardin's delegation stopped in Ankara, Gaziantep, and Istanbul while in Turkey. In Ankara, the delegation met with President Abdullah Gul, Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan, and Omer Onhon, former Turkish ambassador to Syria. The delegation prioritized international engagement in the Syrian conflict, the status of Syrian refugees, the urgency of improving Turkish-Israeli relations, the Middle East Peace Process, bilateral economic cooperation and ongoing human rights concerns in their consultations with Turkish government officials. The delegation was briefed by U.S. Ambassador Frank Ricciardone and his staff on bilateral U.S.-Turkish priorities and the security of U.S. embassies following the tragic February 1, 2013 attack on the embassy in Ankara. In Gaziantep, Chairman Cardin's delegation was the first group from Congress to visit the American detachment of the newly established NATO Patriot missile batteries. Members met with the troops stationed near Gaziantep and were briefed on security concerns emanating from the Syrian conflict and NATO efforts to ensure the security of Turkish communities near the Syrian border. The delegation was briefed by regional staff of the U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance on their substantial efforts to meet the humanitarian needs of the Syrian people in refugee camps and ensure the necessary resources reach the internally displaced civilians within Syria. The delegation then proceeded to visit the central Turkish camp for Syrian refugees in Kilis, which is one of more than 20 such camps along the border. After a briefing by the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Members had an opportunity to see the facilities. The Turkish government has independently made a substantial investment in Syrian humanitarian assistance through their camps. They urged the delegation to encourage the international community to contribute more financial support to address the lack of resources for the growing Syrian refugee population in the region. The delegation also met the camp leadership elected from among the refugees, which reflected the diversity of those displaced by the conflict. The camp leaders urged the delegation to act expeditiously to support the Syrian opposition before the positive perception of the United States irreparably diminishes among Syrian civilians. In Istanbul, the delegation participated in a discussion on the success of bilateral economic cooperation and overcoming barriers to increase U.S. investment in Turkey hosted by the Joint American Business Forum of Turkey and the Turkish-American Business Council. Members then convened a roundtable discussion with a diverse group of Syrian opposition activists based in Istanbul. The activists expressed an urgent interest in the future U.S. role in addressing the security and humanitarian impacts of Syrian conflict. The delegation also had an opportunity to meet with graduate students of Bahcesehir University to discuss the importance of international academic exchanges and youth professional development. OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Meets in Vienna The congressional delegation concluded in Vienna, Austria, to represent the United States at the Winter Meeting of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA). Like the OSCE of which it is a part, the Parliamentary Assembly has been an important venue for important initiatives relating to the Helsinki Commission’s work. Those initiatives include addressing specific human rights concerns in numerous countries and combating intolerance in society, organized crime and official corruption, and trafficking in persons. They also include promoting transparency in government and business practices. The United States has traditionally maintained a robust presence in the Assembly, assuring European friends and allies of willing U.S. engagement on issues of common concern and ensuring that the Assembly’s work reflects U.S. interests. Representative Aderholt, for example, is currently an OSCE Vice President and sits on a subcommittee dealing with rules of procedure and an ad hoc committee focusing on reform and transparency of the OSCE. The Winter Meeting is a two-day event held at the Hofburg premises of the OSCE, allowing diplomatic personnel from this multilateral organization to report to the parliamentarians on security, economic, environmental and human rights developments across Europe and into Central Asia. The Winter Meeting also provides a forum for open debate of topical issues and to present ideas for resolutions to be considered later in the year. In the decade since it was first organized, the Winter Meeting has become second in importance only to the OSCE PA’s Annual Session, which is held in June or July in different locations to consider these resolutions and adopt a declaration. In 2013, there were more than 200 parliamentarians in attendance. Ambassador Ian Kelly, the U.S. Representative to the OSCE, briefed the delegation soon after its arrival on the regional issues of interest to the OSCE, as well as organizational developments, from a U.S. policy perspective. Ukraine has taken the OSCE’s chairmanship for 2013, and efforts continue to achieve progress on priority issues in time for a foreign ministerial scheduled for year’s end. As it approaches its 40th anniversary in 2015, the OSCE is also seeking to develop its structural and substantive abilities in order to remain relevant to European security, but it must do so in the face of efforts by Russia and like-minded states to undermine the OSCE’s human rights focus. OSCE PA President Riccardo Migliori of Italy opened the Winter Meeting with a call to find “solutions for the future” based on “the road map signed in our past,” namely the 1975 Helsinki Final Act. The opening plenary was also addressed by Austrian National Council President Barbara Prammer, OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier of Italy, and the Special Envoy of the OSCE Chair-in-Office, Viacheslav Yatsiuk of Ukraine. Additional discussions were held in each of the Assembly’s three General Committees: the First Committee dealing with political affairs and security; the Second Committee with economic affairs, science, technology and the environment; and the Third Committee with democracy, human rights and humanitarian questions. Committee rapporteurs and guest speakers discussed current issues and the prospects for OSCE PA work in the coming year. Assistant Secretary of Commerce Camuñez was a featured opening speaker for the Second Committee, focusing on economic issues in particular. Calling for a “truly 21st century approach” to engagement on these issues within the OSCE, he focused in particular on work being done on energy security and sustainability. He also called for operationalizing OSCE commitments on good governance and transparency adopted at the 2012 Dublin Ministerial Council of the OSCE and asked parliamentarians to play their role by passing needed laws and encouraging government policies that reflect OSCE norms and goals. The Winter Meeting traditionally includes a closing joint-committee session to debate issues that are particularly relevant and timely. This year, the debate focused on how OSCE countries should respond to crises in Syria, the Sahara, and North Africa. Representative Hastings, speaking as the OSCE PA’s Special Representative on Mediterranean Affairs, made a presentation that called on the parliamentarians to consider being in the place of the Syrian people as they flee their homes and lose loved ones, including children, while the world watches. He called on the participating States to halt the flow of arms to Syria, and insisting the Bashar al-Assad “must go,” called for him to be held accountable for his crimes before the International Criminal Court. Chairman Cardin also spoke in the debate, reporting on the discussions the delegation had in Israel and Turkey regarding Syria and praising Turkey’s efforts to accommodate massive inflows of refugees. During the course of the Winter Meeting, the OSCE PA convenes its Standing Committee, composed only of Heads of Delegation and officers, to shape the Assembly’s work. Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Representative Christopher H. Smith, who was unable to attend the Winter Meeting, and Rep. Hastings each submitted to the committee written reports on their activities as Special Representative on Human Trafficking and as Special Representative on Mediterranean Affairs, respectively. Chairman Cardin participated in a lengthy debate on OSCE election observation, calling for the Assembly and the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) to coordinate in the field and to take advantage of parliamentary leadership to make observation most effective. The delegation used its time at the Winter Meeting to engage in bilateral meetings with parliamentarians and officials regarding Helsinki Commission concerns, including the OSCE Chair-in-Office envoy Yatsiuk, OSCE Secretary General Zannier and ODIHR Director Janez Lenarcic of Slovenia. Representative Hastings also organized a working session with visiting delegates from the Mediterranean Partner countries in order to plan activity for the coming year that will strengthen the partnership between the Mediterranean Partners – Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia – and the OSCE. Representative Aderholt also met with human rights activist and opposition representative Andrei Sannikov to discuss common concerns in Belarus. Beyond the Hofburg, the delegation also met with Ambassador Joseph MacManus, who represents the United States at United Nations organizations based in Vienna, and Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Yukiya Amano of Japan. Nuclear proliferation was the main issue in these meetings. Chairman Cardin also was accompanied by the U.S. Ambassador to Austria, Willliam Eacho, as he paid tribute at the Austrian National Council to the Vienna-based organization CENTROPA and its American Director, Ed Serotta, for efforts to preserve Jewish memory in Central and Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, the Balkans and the Baltics for future generations. By all accounts, the Winter Meeting represented two days of healthy debate and discussion. The U.S. Delegation played an active role throughout the meeting, making presentations and responding to statements of others.

  • Helsinki Commission Welcomes Unveiling of Berlin Memorial for Romani Genocide Victims

    On October 24, more than 600 people in Berlin attended the unveiling of the Memorial for the Sinti¹ and Roma of Europe Murdered under National Socialism. Leaders of the Helsinki Commission, who had underscored the importance of the monument, welcomed the event. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, observed that the memorial “marks an important step in acknowledging and teaching about the fate of Roma at the hands of the Nazi regime and the Axis powers: persecution, confiscation of property, forced sterilization, slave labor, inhumane medical experimentation, and ultimately genocide.” Proposals to erect a memorial to the Romani victims of genocide emerged in the early 1990s after the unification of the Federal Republic of Germany and German Democratic Republic and at a time when German acknowledgement and remembrance took on additional dimensions. Those efforts, however, bogged down over questions regarding the location of the proposed memorial and the content of inscriptions. (Concerns raised by the artist over materials and weather-related construction complications also contributed to interruptions.) German government officials also suggested some delays were caused by differing views among Romani groups, particularly regarding the inscriptions; some critics of the delays suggested there was an insufficient sense of ownership and political will on the part of the government. Senator Ben Cardin (MD), Co-Chairman of the Commission, noted the singular role of Romani Rose, Chairman of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, and “his tireless work to ensure that Romani victims of genocide are remembered and honored.” Rose, who lost his grandparents at Auschwitz and Ravensbrueck, was a driving force to see the memorial completed. Cardin added, “I am deeply heartened that efforts to build this memorial, underway for over a decade, have finally been realized.” German government officials at the most senior level attended the unveiling of the genocide memorial, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Joachim Gauck, Bundestag President Norbert Lammert, Bundesrat President Horst Seehofer, and Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit. Former President Richard von Weizsacker, in spite of advanced years and frail health, was also present. Federal Minister of Culture Bernd Neumann described the memorial “a pillar of German remembrance.” U.S. Ambassador to Germany Patrick Murphy and Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues Douglas Davidson represented the United States. Dr. Ethel Brooks, who has served as a public member with the U.S. Delegation to the 2011 and 2012 OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meetings, also attended the ceremony. The memorial, designed by Israeli artist Dani Karavan, was widely hailed as a deeply moving testimony to the genocide of Romani people. Dutch Sinto survivor Zoni Weiss addressed the hundreds of people who attended the event. As a 7-year-old, Weiss narrowly avoided being placed on the Westerbork transport from the Netherlands due to the intervention of platform policeman, but watched as his immediate family was sent to Auschwitz where they perished. The unveiling ceremony was also accompanied by a week of events in Berlin focused on Romani history, culture and contemporary issues. Gert Weisskirchen, former German Member of the Budestag and former OSCE Personal Representative on Anti-Semitism, organized a round-table focused on contemporary challenges faced by Roma. In her remarks at the event, Chancellor Merkel also acknowledged the on-going struggle for human rights faced by Roma throughout Europe, saying bluntly, “let’s not beat around the bush. Sinti and Roma suffer today from discrimination and exclusion.” Romani Rose warned more pointedly, “In Germany and in Europe, there is a new and increasingly violent racism against Sinti and Roma. This racism is supported not just by far-right parties and groups; it finds more and more backing in the middle of society.” Background The Nazis targeted Roma for extermination. Persecution began in the 1920s, and included race-based denial of the right to vote, selection for forced sterilization, loss of citizenship on the basis of race, and incarceration in work or concentration camps. The most notorious sites where Roma were murdered include Auschwitz in Nazi-occupied Poland, the Jasenovac camp in the so-called Independent State of Croatia, Romanian-occupied Transnistria, and Babi-Yar in Nazi-occupied Ukraine. In other parts of German occupied or German-allied territory, Roma were frequently killed by special SS squads or even regular army units or police, often left in mass graves. Many scholars estimate that 500,000 Roma were killed during is World War II, although scholarship on the genocide of Roma remains in its infancy and many important archives have only become available to a broader community of researchers since the fall of communism. In recent years, for example, Father Patrick Desbois has helped document the location of 800 WWII-mass graves in Ukraine and elsewhere in the former Soviet Union, including 48 mass graves of Roma. German postwar restitution legislation and its implementation effectively excluded almost all Romani survivors. Those most directly responsible for actions against Roma escaped investigation, prosecution and conviction. Several officials responsible for the deportations of Roma before and during the war continued to have responsibility for Romani affairs after the war. In 1979, the West German Federal Parliament acknowledged the Nazi persecution of Roma as being racially motivated. In 1982, Chancellor Helmut Schmidt recognized that the National Socialist persecution of Romani people constituted genocide. The first German trial decision to take legal cognizance that Roma were genocide victims during the Third Reich was handed down in 1991. In 1997, Federal President Roman Herzog opened a Documentation and Cultural Center of German Sinti and Roma, saying “The genocide of the Sinti and Roma was carried out from the same motive of racial hatred, with the same intent and the same desire for planned and final annihilation as that of the Jews. They were systematically murdered in whole families, from the small child to the old man, throughout the sphere of influence of the Nazis.” At the 2007 OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, Thommas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, observed that, “[e]ven after the [ . . . ] Nazi killing of at least half a million Roma, probably 700,000 or more, there was no genuine change of attitude among the majority population towards the Roma.”

  • The OSCE 2011 Human Dimension Implementation Meeting

    By Erika B. Schlager, Counsel for International Law Overview From September 26 to October 7, 2011, the OSCE participating States met in Warsaw, Poland, for the annual Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM). The meeting was organized by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, according to an agenda approved by consensus of all 56 participating States. The HDIM is Europe’s largest annual human rights gathering and provides a venue for participating States and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to review the implementation of the full range of core human rights and fundamental freedoms (e.g., freedoms of speech, assembly and association; prevention of torture; right to a fair trial), as well as rule of law, free elections and democracy-building issues. National minorities, Roma, tolerance and non-discrimination are also on the agenda. In accordance with OSCE procedures, the agenda included three specially selected topics, each of which was given a full day of review. In 2011, those subjects were: 1) “Democratic elections and electoral observation,” 2) “Freedom of movement,” and 3) “Enhancing implementation of OSCE commitments regarding Roma and Sinti.” U.S. Delegation The U.S. Delegation was headed by Ambassador David Johnson. Other members of the delegation included Ambassador Ian Kelly, Head of the U.S. Mission to the OSCE; Ambassador Cynthia Efird, Senior State Department Advisor to the Helsinki Commission; Ambassador Suzan Johnson Cook, Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom; and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Thomas Melia. Helsinki Commission staff participated in all aspects of the delegation’s work. Patrick Merloe, National Democratic Institute, Kathleen Newland, Migration Policy Institute, and Ethel Brooks, Rutgers University, served as Public Members of the delegation, addressing democratic elections, freedom of movement, and the situation of Romani people in the OSCE region respectively. Public Members have traditionally been included in U.S. delegations to OSCE human dimension meetings as a means of bringing special expertise to the U.S. delegations and to promote greater knowledge of the OSCE process in civil society. Highlights of This Year’s Meeting The severe crackdown in Belarus which followed elections last December was a focus of attention throughout the two-week meeting, both in formal sessions and special side events. During the final session, the United States delivered a statement focused on the use of the Moscow Mechanism regarding Belarus -- an OSCE tool used in exceptional circumstances to conduct fact-finding regarding extreme human rights concerns. The mechanism had been invoked in April by 14 participating States and a report was presented to the OSCE Permanent Council by the Mechanism Rapporteur, Professor Emmanuel Decaux, on May 28. NGOs also demonstrated throughout the meeting on behalf of Belarusian political prisoner Alex Bielatskiy. The United States also raised issues which remain unresolved following the 2003 invocation of the Moscow Mechanism regarding Turkmenistan. In particular, Ambassador Johnson drew attention to the continued disappearance of Ambassador Batyr Berdiev, the former representative of Turkmenistan to the OSCE. Although Turkmenistan officials did not to participate in the HDIM, human rights groups concerned with Turkmenistan were present and members of the opposition-in-exile made a statement expressing their willingness to return to Turkmenistan and participate in the February 2012 presidential elections. They also called for the OSCE to conduct a full election observation mission for those elections. In its opening statement, the United States observed that Kazakhstan had failed to fully implement the commitments on domestic reform it had made in 2007 in Madrid upon receiving the Chairmanship for 2010, that leading human rights activist Yevgeniy Zhovtis remained in prison as a result of a trial that lacked due process, that Kazakhstan had adopted measures in a one-party parliament giving the current president continued power and immunity from prosecution for life and had held a poorly-conducted snap presidential election following an attempt to push through a referendum to obviate future elections for the incumbent. Although Kazakhstan protested the U. S. characterization of 2010 as “a year of missed opportunities for reform,” Kazakhstan’s adoption of a new restrictive religion law during the course of the human dimension meeting illustrated the very point the United States was making. In fact, of the topics restricted to three-hour sessions, the subject of religious liberties was the most oversubscribed, with Kazakhstan’s new religion law generating particular criticism. As at previous meetings, the allocation of time during the meeting was highly problematic, with speaking time at some of the sessions limited to only one or two minutes to accommodate dozens desiring the floor, while other sessions ended early with time unused. Other real-time developments during the HDIM also found their way into discussions. Following the outbreak of fighting on September 27 at a Kosovo border crossing with Serbia, Serbian representatives at the meeting engaged in a sharply worded exchange with Albanian officials. (Serbia's engagement at the meeting was of particular note in light of Belgrade's bid to serve as OSCE Chair-in-Office in 2014.) The outbreak of anti-Roma rioting in every major Bulgarian town or city during the HDIM underscored the urgency of addressing the chronic human rights problems affecting Roma as well as the acute and escalating crises. Many participants also raised concern regarding continuing human rights abuses against ethnic Uzbeks in southern Kyrgyzstan in the wake of widespread violence last year and in advance of Kyrgyzstani elections in October. During the formal sessions, NGOs demonstrated on behalf of Kyrgyzstani political prisoner Azhimzhon Askarov. The United States engaged fully in all aspects of the meeting, holding bilateral meetings with other OSCE participating States and extensive consultations with NGOs. The United States also organized two side events. The first focused on on the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Professor Louise Teitz from the Hague Permanent Bureau (an intergovernmental organization that administers this and other Hague Conventions), and Corrin Ferber from the Department of State, made presentations, with additional comments provided by Consul General Linda Hoover, U.S. Embassy Warsaw. The second event focused on fundamental freedoms in the digital age. DAS Thomas Melia moderated the discussion, which included comments by the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatovic; Agata Waclik-Wejman, policy counsel for Google; and Nataliya Radzina, a Belarusian journalist who faces a lengthy prison sentence in Belarus. Conclusions The Human Dimension Implementation Meeting served as an important forum for the United States to raise issues of concern, both formally and informally, and to hold extensive consultations with governments, OSCE officials, and representatives of civil society. That said, this year's HDIM was somewhat diminished relative to past meetings. First, member states of the European Union appeared divided or preoccupied (or both). As a consequence, on a number of subjects – for example, the session that included migrant workers, refugees, and displaced persons -- there was neither a coordinated European Union statement nor statements by individual EU member states speaking in their national capacity. This voice was missed. Second, the level of participation on the part of governments as well as civil society was reduced. This may be in part due to economic factors. But it may also reflect other factors. Prior to the HDIM, for example, Belarus and Russia dragged out the adoption of an agenda until the last possible moment, making it especially hard for NGOs to plan their participation. In addition, OSCE has, in recent years, scheduled so many human dimension meetings throughout the year that it is difficult for government and non-governmental experts to cover them all. (In addition to the discussion of tolerance and non-discrimination at the HDIM, those issues have been or will be addressed at three different ad hoc meetings, as well as one of the Supplementary Human Dimension Implementation Meetings.) The Lithuanian Chairmanship also scheduled some meetings in Vienna during the HDIM, although the modalities call for all Vienna meetings to be suspended during the HDIM to facilitate participation by the representatives to the OSCE. Similarly, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly fall meeting overlapped with the final sessions of the HDIM. In fact, the modalities for the OSCE's human dimension activities were a dominant theme during the HDIM's closing session -- presaging the opening of discussions in Vienna on that issue held immediately after the HDIM at the insistence of Belarus. While many governments, including the U.S., believe the way in which the OSCE organizes its human dimension activities could be improved, the discussions themselves risk being held hostage by those countries inimical to the OSCE's human rights work.

  • Commemorating International Roma Day

    By Dr. Angel W. Colon-Rivera April 8th marks International Roma Day – a day to remember that Europe’s largest ethnic minority still faces anti-Roma violence, violations of their human rights, discrimination, and systematic marginalization, so that many have difficulty meeting their basic human needs, such as education, housing, health care and, in some cases, even clean water. In a number of OSCE participating States, Roma live in segregated communities, their children attend segregated schools, and they are discriminated against in employment and other areas of public life. In some OSCE countries, Roma are subject to violence or threat of violence on a daily basis. The Helsinki Commission has long monitored and reported on human rights violations against Roma and other ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities. In the early 1990s, the commission issued a series of reports on OSCE countries making the transition from communism to democracy – almost every report identified the deteriorating situation of Roma as a problem. Commissioners have addressed violations of Roma rights through hearings and briefings, engagement with representatives of the OSCE participating States, and by encouraging the Department of State to ensure that human rights violations of persons belonging to Romani communities are appropriately reported in the annual Country Reports on Human Rights. Last year, the Commission hosted two special roundtables in Washington for representatives of OSCE Embassies to elevate the discussion of Romani human rights concerns: the first, in January, was a conversation with Andrzej Mirga, the OSCE Senior Advisor for Romani issues; the second, in October, was with Viktoria Mohacsi, who had served as one of two Romani MPs in the European Parliament and was a recipient of the Human Rights First 2010 award. During the OSCE Review Conference in Warsaw, the Commission also organized a meeting for the U.S. delegation with Romani participants, many of whom are now advisors to their governments. The discussion focused on mass expulsions of Roma from France and the dangerous rise in anti-Roma political rhetoric in much of Europe. Commissioners have paid particular attention to the escalation of anti-Roma violence in the Czech Republic and Hungary, and to comments by public figures in a number of countries associating Roma with criminality – discourse that echoes the rhetoric of the Nazi period. In September and October of 2011, the OSCE will hold its annual Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, where one of this year’s special topics will be “Enhancing implementation of OSCE commitments regarding Roma and Sinti.” The OSCE Chair-in-Office, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis has made tolerance education a priority. Part of that effort emphasizes the importance of Holocaust remembrance and education due to a need to educate future generations about the tragedies of the Holocaust where millions of Jewish, Romani, and other victims perished because of intolerance and hatred. Commission leaders have paid particular attention to the goal of Holocaust education and commemoration, as well as access to Holocaust-era archives. Accordingly, the Commission continues to follow on-going efforts to build, in Berlin, a memorial for Sinti and Roma victims of the genocide. Although various complications have delayed this historic undertaking (including weather-related construction delays), German officials have indicated the monument should be completed and unveiled this year.

  • Canada Considers Next Steps in Extractive Industry Transparency; Roundtable in Toronto is Forum for Discussion on Harmonization of Canadian and U.S. Reporting Requirements

    By Shelly Han Policy Advisor The oil, gas and mining sector play an important part of Canada’s economy, not only in terms of its domestic industry, but also the global reach of Canada’s extractive companies and the importance of its capital markets for international mining companies. According to recent reports, Toronto is the mining finance capital of the world, raising 30 to 40 per cent of the world’s mining equity almost every year, and Canadian mining companies account for a world-leading 40 percent of global exploration expenditure. With passage of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in 2010, a new law was created that requires greater transparency by oil, gas and mining companies in all markets, both domestic and international. The law, sponsored by Senators Ben Cardin and Richard Lugar, requires all companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges to report to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) the payments they make to U.S. and foreign governments for natural resource exploration and extraction. The SEC rule to implement this law is currently being drafted and will become final in early April of 2011. In order to make this transparency initiative even more effective, supporters of the measure are working to enact similar initiatives in other major capital markets such as the EU, Canada, Hong Kong and elsewhere. On January 18, 2011, the Publish What You Pay Coalition of Canada convened a roundtable discussion to consider ways that Canada might harmonize its exchange reporting regulations with the new requirements enacted in the United States. At the event were key players in the Canadian extractives industry sector, the regulatory agencies, academics and non-governmental organizations. Strong support was expressed by some participants for harmonization with the U.S. because of Canada’s pivotal role in providing mining capital. And even though Canadian companies and the Canadian Government have made a tremendous push toward increasing corporate social responsibility in the mining sector, it was noted by one of the participants that Canada is about to be severely criticized by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) following completion of an assessment of their enforcement of anti-bribery laws. During the discussion, the participants noted that a complicating factor in harmonization was the fact that Canadian capital markets are administered at the provincial and territory-level, meaning that unlike the practice in the United States where this is just one federal regulator, Canada has 13 separate securities regulators. Currently pending legislation in the form of a draft Securities Act, however, may create an overarching federal securities body, but some participants expressed doubt about the passage of this bill. Even absent creation of a federal agency, some participants noted that if the major exchanges in Toronto and Ontario moved to harmonize first, then other provinces were likely to follow suit. Regardless, Canadian regulators are unlikely to move forward until a final SEC rule is issued in April. At that time groups such as the Publish What You Pay Coalition and others will likely move forward with a renewed push for harmonization with new global standard on transparency for the extractive industries.

  • Year in Review: 2010 Supplementary Human Dimension Meetings

    By Janice Helwig and Mischa Thompson, Policy Advisors Since 1999, the OSCE participating States have convened three “supplementary human dimension meetings” (SHDMs) each year – that is, meetings intended to augment the annual review of the implementation of all OSCE human dimension commitments. The SHDMs focus on specific issues and the topics are chosen by the Chair-in-Office. Although they are generally held in Vienna – with a view to increasing the participation from the permanent missions to the OSCE – they can be held in other locations to facilitate participation from civil society. The three 2010 SHDMs focused on gender issues, national minorities and education, and religious liberties. But 2010 had an exceptionally full calendar – some would say too full. In addition to the regularly scheduled meetings, ad hoc meetings included: A February 9-10 expert workshop in Mongolia on trafficking; A March 19 hate crimes and the Internet meeting in Warsaw; A June 10-11th meeting in Copenhagen to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Copenhagen Document; A (now annual) trafficking meeting on June 17-18; and A high-level conference on tolerance June 29-30 in Astana. The extraordinary number of meetings also included an Informal Ministerial in July, a Review Conference (held in Warsaw, Vienna and Astana over the course of September, October, and November) and the OSCE Summit on December 1-2 (both in Astana). Promotion of Gender Balance and Participation of Women in Political and Public Life The first SHDM of 2010 was held on May 6-7 in Vienna, Austria, focused on the “Promotion of Gender Balance and Participation of Women in Political and Public Life.” It was opened by speeches from Kazakhstan's Minister of Labour and Social Protection, Gulshara Abdykalikova, and Portuguese Secretary of State for Equality, Elza Pais. The discussions focused mainly on “best practices” to increase women’s participation at the national level, especially in parliaments, political parties, and government jobs. Most participants agreed that laws protecting equality of opportunity are sufficient in most OSCE countries, but implementation is still lacking. Therefore, political will at the highest level is crucial to fostering real change. Several speakers recommended establishing quotas, particularly for candidates on political party lists. A number of other forms of affirmative action remedies were also discussed. Others stressed the importance of access to education for women to ensure that they can compete for positions. Several participants said that stereotypes of women in the media and in education systems need to be countered. Others seemed to voice stereotypes themselves, arguing that women aren’t comfortable in the competitive world of politics. Turning to the OSCE, some participants proposed that the organization update its (2004) Gender Action Plan. (The Gender Action Plan is focused on the work of the OSCE. In particular, it is designed to foster gender equality projects within priority areas; to incorporate a gender perspective into all OSCE activities, and to ensure responsibility for achieving gender balance in the representation among OSCE staff and a professional working environment where women and men are treated equally.) A few participants raised more specific concerns. For example, an NGO representative from Turkey spoke about the ban on headscarves imposed by several countries, particularly in government buildings and schools. She said that banning headscarves actually isolates Muslim women and makes it even harder for them to participate in politics and public life. NGOs from Tajikistan voiced their strong support for the network of Women’s Resource Centers, which has been organized under OSCE auspices. The centers provide services such as legal assistance, education, literacy classes, and protection from domestic violence. Unfortunately, however, they are short of funding. NGO representatives also described many obstacles that women face in Tajikistan’s traditionally male-oriented society. For example, few women voted in the February 2010 parliamentary elections because their husbands or fathers voted for them. Women were included on party candidate lists, but only at the bottom of the list. They urged that civil servants, teachers, health workers, and police be trained on legislation relating to equality of opportunity for women as means of improving implementation of existing laws. An NGO representative from Kyrgyzstan spoke about increasing problems related to polygamy and bride kidnappings. Only a first wife has any legal standing, leaving additional wives – and their children - without social or legal protection, including in the case of divorce. The meeting was well-attended by NGOs and by government representatives from capitals. However, with the exception of the United States, there were few participants from participating States’ delegations in Vienna. This is an unfortunate trend at recent SHDMs. Delegation participation is important to ensure follow-up through the Vienna decision-making process, and the SHDMs were located in Vienna as a way to strengthen this connection. Education of Persons belonging to National Minorities: Integration and Equality The OSCE held its second SHDM of 2010 on July 22-23 in Vienna, Austria, focused on the "Education of Persons belonging to National Minorities: Integration and Equality." Charles P. Rose, General Counsel for the U.S. Department of Education, participated as an expert member of the U.S. delegation. The meeting was opened by speeches from the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Knut Vollebaek and Dr. Alan Phillips, former President of the Council of Europe Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. Three sessions discussed facilitating integrated education in schools, access to higher education, and adult education. Most participants stressed the importance of minority access to strong primary and secondary education as the best means to improve access to higher education. The lightly attended meeting focused largely on Roma education. OSCE Contact Point for Roma and Sinti Issues Andrzej Mirga stressed the importance of early education in order to lower the dropout rate and raise the number of Roma children continuing on to higher education. Unfortunately, Roma children in several OSCE States are still segregated into separate classes or schools - often those meant instead for special needs children - and so are denied a quality education. Governments need to prioritize early education as a strong foundation. Too often, programs are donor-funded and NGO run, rather than being a systematic part of government policy. While states may think such programs are expensive in the short term, in the long run they save money and provide for greater economic opportunities for Roma. The meeting heard presentations from several participating States of what they consider their "best practices" concerning minority education. Among others, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Greece, and Armenia gave glowing reports of their minority language education programs. Most participating States who spoke strongly supported the work of the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities on minority education, and called for more regional seminars on the subject. Unfortunately, some of the presentations illustrated misunderstandings and prejudices rather than best practices. For example, Italy referred to its "Roma problem" and sweepingly declared that Roma "must be convinced to enroll in school." Moreover, the government was working on guidelines to deal with "this type of foreign student," implying that all Roma are not Italian citizens. Several Roma NGO representatives complained bitterly after the session about the Italian statement. Romani NGOs also discussed the need to remove systemic obstacles in the school systems which impede Romani access to education and to incorporate more Romani language programs. The Council of Europe representative raised concern over the high rate of illiteracy among Romani women, and advocated a study to determine adult education needs. Other NGOs talked about problems with minority education in several participating States. For example, Russia was criticized for doing little to provide Romani children or immigrants from Central Asia and the Caucasus support in schools; what little has been provided has been funded by foreign donors. Charles Rose discussed the U.S. Administration's work to increase the number of minority college graduates. Outreach programs, restructured student loans, and enforcement of civil rights law have been raising the number of graduates. As was the case of the first SHDM, with the exception of the United States, there were few participants from participating States’ permanent OSCE missions in Vienna. This is an unfortunate trend at recent SHDMs. Delegation participation is important to ensure follow-up through the Vienna decision-making process, and the SHDMs were located in Vienna as a way to strengthen this connection. OSCE Maintains Religious Freedom Focus Building on the July 9-10, 2009, SHDM on Freedom of Religion or Belief, on December 9-10, 2010, the OSCE held a SHDM on Freedom of Religion or Belief at the OSCE Headquarters in Vienna, Austria. Despite concerns about participation following the December 1-2 OSCE Summit in Astana, Kazakhstan, the meeting was well attended. Representatives of more than forty-two participating States and Mediterranean Partners and one hundred civil society members participated. The 2010 meeting was divided into three sessions focused on 1) Emerging Issues and Challenges, 2) Religious Education, and 3) Religious Symbols and Expressions. Speakers included ODIHR Director Janez Lenarcic, Ambassador-at-large from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Madina Jarbussynova, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, and Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Silvano Tomasi of the Holy See. Issues raised throughout the meeting echoed concerns raised during at the OSCE Review Conference in September-October 2010 regarding the participating States’ failure to implement OSCE religious freedom commitments. Topics included the: treatment of “nontraditional religions,” introduction of laws restricting the practice of Islam, protection of religious instruction in schools, failure to balance religious freedom protections with other human rights, and attempts to substitute a focus on “tolerance” for the protection of religious freedoms. Notable responses to some of these issues included remarks from Archbishop Silvano Tomasi that parents had the right to choose an education for their children in line with their beliefs. His remarks addressed specific concerns raised by the Church of Scientology, Raelian Movement, Jehovah Witnesses, Catholic organizations, and others, that participating States were preventing religious education and in some cases, even attempting to remove children from parents attempting to raise their children according to a specific belief system. Additionally, some speakers argued that religious groups should be consulted in the development of any teaching materials about specific religions in public school systems. In response to concerns raised by participants that free speech protections and other human rights often seemed to outweigh the right to religious freedom especially amidst criticisms of specific religions, UN Special Rapporteur Bielefeldt warned against playing equality, free speech, religious freedom, and other human rights against one another given that all rights were integral to and could not exist without the other. Addressing ongoing discussion within the OSCE as to whether religious freedom should best be addressed as a human rights or tolerance issue, OSCE Director Lenarcic stated that, “though promoting tolerance is a worthwhile undertaking, it cannot substitute for ensuring freedom of religion of belief. An environment in which religious or belief communities are encouraged to respect each other but in which, for example, all religions are prevented from engaging in teaching, or establishing places of worship, would amount to a violation of freedom of religion or belief.” Statements by the United States made during the meeting also addressed many of these issues, including the use of religion laws in some participating States to restrict religious practice through onerous registrations requirements, censorship of religious literature, placing limitations on places of worship, and designating peaceful religious groups as ‘terrorist’ organizations. Additionally, the United States spoke out against the introduction of laws and other attempts to dictate Muslim women’s dress and other policies targeting the practice of Islam in the OSCE region. Notably, the United States was one of few participating States to call for increased action against anti-Semitic acts such as recent attacks on Synagogues and Jewish gravesites in the OSCE region. (The U.S. statements from the 2010 Review Conference and High-Level Conference can be found on the website of the U.S. Mission to the OSCE.) In addition to the formal meeting, four side events and a pre-SHDM Seminar for civil society were held. The side events were: “Pluralism, Relativism and the Rule of Law,” “Broken Promises – Freedom of religion or belief in Kazakhstan,” “First Release and Presentation of a Five-Year Report on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians in Europe” and “The Spanish school subject ‘Education for Citizenship:’ an assault on freedom of education, conscience and religion.” The side event on Kazakhstan convened by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee featured speakers from Forum 18 and Kazakhstan, including a representative from the CiO. Kazakh speakers acknowledged that more needed to be done to fulfill OSCE religious freedom commitments and that it had been a missed opportunity for Kazakhstan not to do more during its OSCE Chairmanship. In particular, speakers noted that religious freedom rights went beyond simply ‘tolerance,’ and raised ongoing concerns with registration, censorship, and visa requirements for ‘nontraditional’ religious groups. (The full report can be found on the website of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.) A Seminar on Freedom of Religion and Belief for civil society members also took place on December 7-8 prior to the SHDM. The purpose of the Seminar was to assist in developing the capacity of civil society to recognize and address violations of the right to freedom of religion and belief and included an overview of international norms and standards on freedom of religion or belief and non-discrimination.

  • Belarusian Regime Resolutely Dashes Any Hopes for Democratic Liberalization

    By Orest Deychakiwsky, Ronald McNamara, and Josh Shapiro Commission Staff Hints of any democratic progress in Belarus came to a screeching halt on December 19, 2010, in the aftermath of the country’s most recent electoral exercise, the latest in a long line of fundamentally flawed elections. The brutal and bloody election-night crackdown against political opposition supporters, including mass arrests of demonstrators, as well as candidates, who challenged the 16-year rule of Alexander Lukashenka, was unprecedented. Even the prospects of inducements from the EU and others failed to restrain a regime bent on maintaining power. The strong-arm tactics employed on election night, and since, confirm the nature of Lukashenka’s rule – one that perpetuates a pervasive, albeit subtle, climate of fear to squelch dissent. The OSCE Election Observation Mission (EOM) post-election statement, issued on December 20, concluded that “Belarus still has a considerable way to go in meeting its OSCE commitments, although some specific improvements were made. Election night was marred by detentions of most presidential candidates, and hundreds of activists, journalists and civil society representatives.” The Helsinki Commission, the U.S. and European governments, as well as Western NGOs, condemned the regime’s violent campaign of repression and called for the release of jailed opposition presidential candidates, hundreds of peaceful protestors, and some two dozen journalists covering the demonstrations. Moreover, cyber police shut down numerous internet and social networking sites. Repressive actions have continued, including raids on opposition party offices, NGOs, individual residences of activists and journalists, and independent media outlets by police and the KGB. Displaying his displeasure with the OSCE’s negative assessment of the elections, Lukashenka refused to extend the expiring mandate of the organization’s office in Minsk, effectively ousting the OSCE. The only other leader to order such an expulsion was Slobodan Milosevic. The development comes as neighboring Lithuania assumes the chairmanship of the Vienna-based 56-nation organization. Helsinki Commission staff were part of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s contingent to the EOM, headed by Tony Lloyd, a member of the British Parliament. We observed the balloting and vote count in Minsk and Polotsk, a historic city located 120 miles north of the capital. Our election-day observations were consistent with those of the 450 other OSCE observers representing 44 participating States deployed throughout the country. The voting process was assessed as ‘good’ or ‘very good’ in the vast majority of observed polling stations, while the critical vote count was judged as ‘bad’ or ‘very bad’ in nearly half of the precincts observed, giving fresh currency to an adage attributed to Soviet leader Joseph Stalin: “It is not the votes that count, but who counts the votes.” The vote count in Novopolotsk was decidedly non-transparent as both international and domestic observers (virtually all of the latter appeared to be so-called GONGOs, or government organized non-governmental organizations) were kept far enough away from the table on which the votes were being counted, making it impossible to see how the ballots were marked. When queried several times by Commission staff as to the reason, the precinct chairman politely insisted that it was a decision that he and other members of the election commission had made on the pretext of preventing observers from “interfering” in the counting process. Meanwhile, at a polling station in Minsk, staff were allowed closer access to the vote count, though were prevented from seeing what was written on each ballot. With an ambiguous way of counting votes, those in attendance had little clue as to how the chairman of the election commission counted ballots. An outspoken domestic observer was subsequently voted out of the polling station by election commissioners because he was a “nuisance to the vote count.” While the run-up to the election had shown some procedural improvements and an easing of restrictions on normal political activity, the electoral machinery at every level remained firmly under the regime’s control. There were greater opportunities than in previous elections for candidates to speak on live television, and candidates were for the most part able to more freely meet with voters. This, however, did not translate into a level playing field for all candidates as the state-controlled media disproportionately favored Lukashenka. Very telling was the fact that only 0.26 percent of all precinct electoral commission members and 0.70 percent of territorial election commission members were from opposition political parties. Clearly, even the limited improvements did not lead to a free and fair outcome, with only the margin of Lukashenka’s victory to be announced. A December 20 statement issued by the White House, citing the critical OSCE assessment, stressed: “The United States cannot accept as legitimate the results of the presidential election announced by the Belarusian Central Election Commission” issued earlier the day. Even regime-sponsored exit polls contradicted the official CEC results, giving a lower percentage of the vote to Lukashenka and higher percentages to Andrei Sannikau and Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu, the leading opposition candidates who were victims of violence by the authorities and remain incarcerated along with several other contenders. Independent pollsters and analysts also gave Lukashenka far less of the vote than the nearly 80 percent he officially garnered, with some giving him less than the 50 percent of votes needed to avoid a second round against a single opposition candidate. Given the unconscionable crackdown and fraudulent elections, hopes and expectations for even limited progress with respect to democracy and human rights have been thwarted. Through his repressive and undemocratic actions, Lukashenka has shown that he will not tolerate meaningful reform and that he will do whatever it takes to maintain absolute power. This overarching imperative clearly trumps improved relations with the United States and especially the European Union which were in the offing prior to election day, and could have resulted in badly needed financial assistance. In a rambling two-and-a-half hour televised press conference the day after the election, Lukashenka belittled what he termed “mindless democracy” while boldly declaring his lack of fear. Despite his bravado, clearly the Belarusian leader fears the prospect of submitting to a vote in a genuinely free and fair electoral contest. Against the backdrop of a decade of rigged presidential and parliamentary elections and an illegal referendum, Belarus is regrettably no closer to restoring legitimacy to executive and legislative structures, and the prospects for meaningful change appear remote. To the detriment of the Belarusian people, the Lukashenka regime has, yet again, chosen the path of self-imposed isolation.

  • Parliamentary Elections in Kyrgyzstan Set the Stage for a New Political System; Ethnic Tensions Remain a Key Obstacle to Stability

    By Janice Helwig and Shelly Han The OSCE concluded that although the October 10, 2010 elections in Kyrgyzstan were conducted peacefully – no small feat following the April 2010 revolution – and demonstrated a significant increase in pluralism as compared to previous elections, there remains an “urgent need for profound electoral legal reform.” Two Helsinki Commission staff members traveled to Kyrgyzstan to observe the election as part of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly delegation and were deployed in the Osh and Kara-suu region. Although the staff experience was not inconsistent with the overall OSCE conclusion, Osh and the surrounding region appear to have had more problems during the election than other areas of the country. In June, the constitution had been changed through a referendum to give the parliament a stronger role than the President. The improvement in the conduct of the election may have been partly a result of that change in that, because of the new parliamentary system and the relatively large number of parties competing, no one party or group could manipulate the election nationwide (which appeared to have been the case in the 2009 presidential elections). In fact, the close result which divided parliamentary seats among several main parties was a good indicator of an open competition. Nevertheless, there were some problems at the local level, where there may have been attempts to influence the outcome. In the Osh and Kara-suu region, there appeared to be problems particularly with the voters list, the inking process, and the counting process. For example, in almost all the polling visited by Commission staff, about a third of those who had voted had added themselves to the additional list with just their ID. Other international observers reported similar findings. This would indicate that either the main voters list was extremely inaccurate, or something more problematic may have been going on. In one polling station, a man tried to add himself to the additional list but was turned down while the staff was present; he clearly was not satisfied and went back in to try again as they left. Another international observer in the neighboring Uzgen area reported the same pattern, but, suspiciously, only in polling stations easily accessible from the main road. According to the election law, the registration of any voter on the additional list should have been counterchecked and signed by an adviser or observer in the polling station, but that did not happen during the day. At the closing in one polling station, the Chairwoman had a colleague counter sign all 225 additions to the list. The inking procedure also appeared to be a problem. In theory, anyone adding themselves to the additional list should not have been able to vote anywhere else because of the use of invisible ink sprayed on each voter’s thumb. However, spraying and checking for ink in the polling stations appeared to be haphazardly conducted. Domestic observers had to stay in their chairs across the room and could not see whether the ink checker was effective. Moreover, when Commission staff asked people who had been inked earlier it the day to put their thumb under the light, little or no ink was visible. The ink seemed not to work all of the time, or perhaps to have washed off easily. There also were significant problems in processing protocols during the counting process in the Kara-suu district. At the district counting station, the halls and stairways were lined with polling station chairpersons busily erasing and refilling in their protocols. Protocols and stamps were strewn around everywhere. It may have been that the chairpersons were simply trying to get their numbers to add up properly so they would be accepted by Shailoo, the computerized vote-counting system. On the other hand, the numbers also could have been in the process of being changed to influence the outcome. Regardless of intent, last minute changes to protocols made unilaterally by chairpersons should not have been allowed as no observers were present and there were no controls in place to prevent fraud. Official turnout figures said that Osh had the highest voter turnout in the country, at about sixty-six percent. However, Commission staff did not see polling stations with a turnout higher than forty-five percent, nor did other international observers in the area. Interestingly, the turnout in ethnic Uzbek areas appeared to be about the same as in ethnic Kyrgyz areas. Many ethnic Uzbeks said they were “voting for peace,” although it was not clear whether that meant that moving forward with any new parliament would be positive, or if it meant that voting for a certain party would benefit ethnic Uzbeks. Some ethnic Uzbek community leaders had said prior to election day that most political parties had offered their communities money and/or infrastructure improvements in exchange for their votes. Ethnic tensions remain a concern Prior to election day, Commission staff were able to visit several of the Osh neighborhoods destroyed in the June violence, as well as one tent camp. The scale and scope of the destruction in ethnic Uzbek areas was enormous. And in mixed neighborhoods – for example near Shark – the house-by-house, business-by-business singling out of Uzbek-owned structures for destruction was clear. All of the victims staff spoke with appeared to be still afraid and did not see any future in Kyrgyzstan. All wanted to leave but did not have the means to do so. None wanted to go to Uzbekistan; rather they wanted to go to Russia or anywhere else where they might find economic opportunities. While rebuilding of homes was clearly progressing, the question of earning a living in the long term was an overwhelming concern. The divide between ethnic Uzbeks and ethnic Kyrgyz is wide and seems to be growing. Many ethnic Kyrgyz seem to genuinely believe that ethnic Uzbeks were responsible for the violence, and even burned down their own houses in an effort to get international attention. Kyrgyz media and the government seem to be reinforcing this message. If the region is to move forward and avoid future violence, there needs to be some mechanism for accountability and reconciliation. However, so far only ethnic Uzbeks have been arrested and put on trial, and the trials appear to have been unfairly conducted. Ethnic Uzbek defendants have been routinely attacked by ethnic Kyrgyz mobs during the trials, as have media representatives trying to report on the proceedings. In general, journalists and human rights defenders fear retaliation if they report on abuses against ethnic Uzbeks; as a result, there have been few voices speaking out. Standing in the ruins of his home, a man shows Commission staff the photo of his sister, who was killed during the violence in June. This ethnic divide is likely to fester unless something is done to build confidence between the main ethnic groups and provide economic opportunities for all. Moreover, disenfranchised youth could be vulnerable to recruitment by extremist organizations. The new government will face many challenges, not least addressing continuing ethnic tension in the south. 

  • Ottawa Conference Strengthens Global Partnership to Combat Anti-Semitism; Parliamentarians, Experts Assess Troubling Trends

    By Ronald McNamara Policy Advisor The Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism (ICCA) convened its second major conference of parliamentarians and experts in Ottawa, Canada, in early November, building on the work begun at its inaugural session held in London in February 2009. Legislators from nearly 50 countries participated in this year’s conference, which was opened by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who delivered a forthright statement of Canadian support for the State of Israel and determination to confront anti-Semitism. Citing troubling trends in the growth of anti-Semitism, Harper observed: “Harnessing disparate anti-Semitic, anti-American and anti-Western ideologies, it targets the Jewish people by targeting the Jewish homeland, Israel, as the source of injustice and conflict in the world, and uses, perversely, the language of human rights to do so.” Ranking Minority Commissioner Christopher H. Smith, a member of the ICCA Steering Committee, played an active role in the Ottawa Conference, contributing to the drafting of the concluding document, the Ottawa Protocol. The meeting attracted participants from six continents, including leaders from Africa and Asia. In an address Smith discussed troubling trends within the OSCE region, including developments in North America, such as the plot to bomb synagogues and other Jewish institutions in the United States. “Anti-Semitism is much more than a Jewish issue – it is a human rights issue, and should be of direct concern…. Anti-Semitism is a threat to everyone,” remarked Smith. “All of us here recognize that anti-Semitism is a unique evil, we know it is a distinct form of intolerance, the oldest form of religious bigotry, and a disease of the heart…so we take every single anti-Semitic incident seriously,” he stressed in urging zero tolerance. Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel delivered keynote remarks on the eve of the opening of the conference expressing deep concern over the current climate of hate and Holocaust denial propagated by the leader of Iran. Wiesel somberly observed, “since 1945, I have not been as afraid as I am now.” Canadian MP Irwin Cotler, a former Attorney General, was instrumental in securing agreement for the convening of the Ottawa conference. “As it has been said, ‘while it may begin with Jews, it doesn’t end with Jews.’ We ignore anti-Semitism at our peril,” Cotler warned. The Ottawa Conference was organized under the auspices of Canada’s Ministry of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. Several government ministers participated in the well-attended event along with other members of Canada’s parliament. Parallel sessions were held for parliamentarians with a distinct program for NGO representatives, with the two brought together for a concluding session. Commissioner Smith chaired the working group on “Policing, Prosecution and Legal Remedies” featuring contributions from several experts, including Ken Stern of the American Jewish Committee. Other sessions were: Old and New Anti-Semitism; Hate on the Internet; Fighting Anti-Semitism from Within Parliament; State-Sanctioned and State-Backed Anti-Semitism; and Anti-Semitism on Campus. Other ICCA Steering Committee members in Ottawa were: Minister Yuli Edelstein (Israel), John Mann (UK), former Bundestag member Gert Weisskirchen (Germany), Emanuelis Zingeris (Lithuania) and Fiamma Nirenstein (Italy). Smith conveyed greetings to the conference on behalf of OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President Petros Efthymiou of Greece. The Assembly has served as an important vehicle for mobilizing parliamentarians to address anti-Semitism. Smith sponsored the first resolution on combating anti-Semitism, at the Assembly’s 2002 meeting in Berlin, in response to a dramatic rise in anti-Semitic incidents in Europe. Commission co-chairs Senator Benjamin L. Cardin and Representative Alcee L. Hastings have likewise played an active role in drawing attention to anti-Semitism, racism and other forms of intolerance. In addition to scores of American activists and academics at the Ottawa Conference, Hannah Rosenthal, U.S. Special Envoy and Head of the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism participated as well as Rabbi Andrew Baker, OSCE Personal Representative on Combating Anti-Semitism. The Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism (ICCA) brings together parliamentarians from around the world to lead the fight against resurgent global anti-Semitism. Its principal purpose is to share knowledge, experience, best practices, and recommendations, encouraging their dissemination in an attempt to deal more effectively with contemporary anti-Semitism. The Ottawa Protocol reiterates the importance that OSCE participating States fully implement provisions of the Berlin Declaration, including their commitment to collect and maintain reliable information and statistics about anti-Semitic incidents and crimes. The document also encourages countries throughout the world to establish mechanisms for reporting and monitoring on domestic and international anti-Semitism, along the lines of the “Combating Anti-Semitism Act of 2010” introduced by Smith in the U.S. Congress. The protocol urges the incoming OSCE Chair, Lithuania, to make implementation of related OSCE commitments a priority during 2011 and calls for the reappointment of the Personal Representatives to assist in this work.

  • OSCE 2010 Informal Ministerial: Kazakhstan Persistence Earns a Summit in Astana

    By Winsome Packer Policy Advisor Kazakhstan hosted its long-sought OSCE Informal Ministerial in Almaty July 16-17, 2010, the realization of a key aim of its Chairmanship. A second important objective of the Kazakh Chairmanship: a summit on Kazakh soil during 2010, came closer to realization during the meeting. An Astana Summit would be the OSCE’s first since the 1999 Istanbul Summit, which yielded the Adapted Conventional Armed Forces Treaty. Early and persistent calls for “substance before summit” by the U.S. Delegation and other participating States had put in doubt both the informal ministerial and the summit for months. However, a number of the participating States argued for the high level attention to wide-spread security challenges in the OSCE region and the erosion of OSCE values in some quarters. Ten years after the last OSCE summit, they argued, necessitated a meeting of heads of states and governments to reaffirm the participating States’ commitment to the organization’s values and agree on a way forward to tackle the challenges confronting the region today. Thus, six months of, at times, heated informal Corfu dialogue on security challenges in the OSCE region, which was mandated by the Athens Ministerial Declaration, yielded more than 50 “food for thought” papers from the participating States, the Parliamentary Assembly, the OSCE Secretariat, the Partners for Cooperation, think tanks and non-governmental organizations. The thematic papers evolved into an Interim Report during June, which incorporated the proposals submitted within the Corfu Process. It formed the basis for the agenda at the Almaty Informal Ministerial and for the Summit which will be held in Astana December 1-2, 2010. The Almaty Informal Ministerial saw the participation of more than forty foreign ministers, including from the Russian Federation, France, Germany, Canada, Spain, Portugal, Poland, Georgia, Turkey, Austria, and Ukraine. The Parliamentary Assembly’s delegation included President Petros Efthymiou, and Secretary General Spencer Oliver. The U.S. delegation was headed by Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg who, in a bilateral meeting with the Kazakhstanis on July 16, affirmed U.S. support for an OSCE summit this year. The joining of consensus on the summit decision by the United States elicited private expressions of relief from many delegates, and heightened expectations for the summit which would reflect the outcome of the Corfu Process: a declaration and an action plan. The Chair-in-Office requested that the OSCE delegations work toward these aims throughout the summer. During the meeting, delegates voiced support for the summit, to be held in Astana. A majority of the participating States urged OSCE support for Kyrgyzstan, in particular, through the deployment of a police mission. The United States and many delegates stated that the substance of the summit should be based upon the four proposals put forward by the European Union to: (1) bolster the OSCE’s capabilities in all three dimensions to promote early warning, conflict prevention and resolution, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation, including in relation to the protracted conflicts; (2) strengthen implementation and follow-up of OSCE norms, principles and commitments in particular, human dimension commitments covering human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of the media; (3) enhance the conventional arms control framework, including confidence and security building measures, through updating the 1999 Vienna Document and the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty); and (4) increase attention to transnational threats in all three OSCE dimensions. Some delegates also called for a summit to: focus on instability in Afghanistan; intensify efforts to resolve protracted conflicts in the region, and address nuclear terrorism and the proliferation of nuclear and weapons of mass destruction. The United States called for greater military transparency, implementation of human dimension commitments and addressing inter-ethnic conflict in Kyrgyzstan. The U.S. delegation also expressed support for the expeditous deployment of a police force to Kyrgyzstan and for an action plan for the future work of the participating States. In addition to supporting the European Union’s four summit process proposals, the United States also expressed support for a focus on Afghanistan. A Chair’s Perception Paper, resulting from the informal ministerial, incorporated these concerns. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated Russia’s support for the summit “this year.” He urged the involvement of other regional and sub-regional leaders in addressing the Kyrgyzstan situation. He expressed hope that action would be taken on Russia’s proposal for a European Security Treaty (EST) and that it would not merely remain a “subject for discussion.” Lavrov said that the summit document should reflect the post Cold War situation and the security system that emerges should be “free of dividing lines.” He said that Russia was studying NATO’s response to the EST proposal and underlined that the summit should give strong, political impetus for supporting Kyrgyzstan. Concurrent with the Informal Ministerial, draft decisions on the holding of an OSCE summit during 2010 and draft decisions on the agenda and modalities of the summit and agenda and modalities for a review conference were circulated. The review conference would be held in Vienna, Warsaw, and Astana. Negotiations on the draft decisions began on July 19.

  • Fostering Effective Ethnic Minority Political Participation in the OSCE Region

    By Alex T. Johnson and Mischa Thompson, PhD, Policy Advisors As part of an ongoing initiative to foster ethnic minority political participation in the OSCE region, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Co-Chairman of the United States Helsinki Commission attended the United Nations (UN) Second Session of the Forum on Minority Issues. The Session focused on Minorities and Effective Political Participation, took place on November 12 and 13, 2009 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. The purpose of the Forum was to “identify and analyze best practices, challenges, opportunities and initiatives for the further implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities.” The Forum consisted of a Preparatory Meeting for NGOs, Workshop for Minority Political Actors, the Forum, and two Side events organized by the Minority Rights Group and United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Recommendations based on the proceedings were produced at the close of the forum. The U.S. delegation to the Forum was led by Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. In addition to Co-Chairman Hastings, other members of the U.S. delegation included, Congressman Mike Honda (D-CA) - Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, and Delegate Donna Christensen (D-VI). The Forum was Chaired by Congresswoman Lee and convened by United Nations Independent Expert on Minority Issues, Gay McDougall. More than five hundred persons participated in the Forum, including more than eighty elected officials and other political actors, forty-five delegates and ninety-five non-government organizations from all over the world. The U.S. Delegation attended the Workshop for Minority Political Actors, which took place prior to the Forum and allowed elected officials and other political figures to discuss their own priorities and strategies for increasing minority political participation. Participants discussed barriers and possible remedies and efforts governments, parliaments, political parties, national human rights institutions, civil society, treaty bodies, United Nations institutions, the media, and other stakeholders could engage in to foster minority political participation. The U.S. delegation focused on the need to educate minority populations on their civil and political rights, including voting, running for office, and advocacy. Additionally, to address the lack of representation of minorities in government, the delegation called for initiatives that would increase employment opportunities for minorities in the political sphere. Specifically, these recommendations included introducing civic education programs led by minorities and developing minority youth professional development programs at government agencies, in parliaments, and in international bodies. Congressman Honda highlighted the importance of including minorities in the development, management, and implementation of government initiatives targeting minorities. “One should see minorities in professional positions upon immediately entering national human rights agencies, especially when the agency has a stated goal of combating racism and discrimination,” he argued. (This and other suggestions from the U.S. Delegation were included in the final Recommendations of the Forum.) As Chairperson, Congresswoman Lee opened the official Forum. In her remarks, she noted that empowering minorities politically is critical to achieving a truly democratic, free and global community. While she cited the election of President Barack Obama as an example of gains made toward fair election processes, she stated that minorities are still underrepresented in the U.S. Congress. For instance, there is currently only one African-American serving in the U.S. Senate.) Additionally, she stated that a continued focus of the Congressional Black Caucus and other minority caucuses was to address disparities between minority and majority populations in all aspects of society including the political arena. Following her remarks, government delegates and members of civil society ranging from Iranian dissidents to South Asian Dalit activists gave remarks. While many of the governments offered descriptions of their various initiatives to foster minority political participation, some governments provided assessments and prescriptions for improvement, including the U.S. government. Of particular relevance to minority political participation in the European context were the comments of OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Knut Vollebaek. The Office of the High Commissioner on National Minorities is a unique institution of the OSCE in that it is situated in a politico-security dimension of the organization and facilitates confidential direct assessments on the status of minorities in the 56 participating States of the OSCE. High Commissioner Vollebaek highlighted how the underrepresentation of minorities in public services exacerbates the challenge of involving minorities in civic life. More specifically, he noted that exclusion and its causes threaten the stability of societies if left unaddressed. Other presentations throughout the forum corroborated the importance of this message. Speaking on the panel “Concrete Steps to Advance Minority Political Participation and to Build Capacity of Minorities to Participate Effectively,” Co-Chairman Hastings highlighted his work with minority European Parliamentarians in convening the 2009 Black European Summit.  He noted findings from the Summit, including that “the majority of our political and legal systems do not accurately reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of our societies.” He called for this problem to be addressed via “simple solutions governments, political parties, and non-governmental organizations can employ such as advertising employment opportunities in minority communities, requiring that at least a percentage of persons interviewed for a position are minorities, and providing fellowships and internships for minority youth in Parliament, government agencies, and other organizations.” Minority Roundtable On the margins of the UN Minority Issues Forum, Co-Chairman Hastings convened a roundtable of participants of the April 2009 Black European Summit and other interested parties. The roundtable provided an opportunity to follow up on the Brussels Declaration adopted at the close of the Black European Summit (see Appendix 1), and discuss future initiatives for continuing the transatlantic dialogue. The discussion also informed individuals unable to participate in the Black European Summit about the scope of activities and potential for future collaboration. Participants identified destinations for study tours to view the situation of minorities and existing initiatives to increase minority political participation in the OSCE region. The United Kingdom, Netherlands, France, and Germany were specifically named given that the populations of visible minorities in these countries remains high and that they each offer unique narratives for analyzing methods to overcome barriers to minority political participation. Participants reaffirmed the need for annual meetings to sustain linkages between minority political actors and agreed to identify additional minority leaders to expand the transatlantic dialogue and plan future initiatives. Conclusion The “Recommendations of the second session of the Forum on Minority Issues on minorities and effective political participation” were compiled at the close of the Forum and should serve as a useful guide for governments to foster minority political inclusion. Moreover, in the OSCE region, sustaining a transatlantic dialogue with minority political actors focused on minority political inclusion is not only key to implementation of the recommendations, but also realizing the commitments to democratic societies enshrined in both the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities and the Helsinki Final Act. Appendix 1 Brussels Declaration We, as members of the public, private, and voluntary sectors from Europe and the United States of America convening in Brussels, Belgium from the 15 to 16 of April 2009 for the Black European Summit: Transatlantic Dialogue on Political Inclusion, draw attention to the need for coordinated strategies to address racism and discrimination; We recognize the democratic, multi-ethnic and multi-racial nature of our countries’ diverse societies; We reaffirm the principles of equal rights and self-determination of peoples and recalling that all individuals are born equal in dignity and rights; We remain concerned that the political and legal systems in some of our societies do not reflect the racial and ethnic diversity within our societies, which then contributes to the continuation of racism and discrimination; We recognize that the full access of racial and ethnic minorities to participate in the political sphere and relevant areas of decision making at the levels of national, regional, and locally elected government appropriate to each nation is critical to combating racism and inequality and ensuring our democratic societies; We therefore note the need for concrete strategies to: increase the representation and influence of racial and ethnic minority policymakers; jointly seek solutions to racial and ethnic minorities increased participation in decision-making in the development and implementation of policy initiatives to address discrimination and inequality; and support opportunities to exchange and share perspectives in these areas through the continuance of a transatlantic dialogue to realize these goals. We today resolve that we will endeavor to enact initiatives to eradicate racial and ethnic discrimination through: Continuing a transatlantic dialogue that: includes cultural exchanges between American and European racial and ethnic minority groups, including youth; focuses on the development of opportunities for racial and ethnic minority political leadership and participation in the policymaking process; and fosters the exchange of information on best practices to implement and enforce antidiscrimination measures and achieve racial equality; Joining forces over the coming months to develop common goals and objectives in each of our decision-making bodies to recognize Europe’s Black and racial and ethnic minority populations for their historical and present-day contributions and acknowledge past injustices; Promoting racial and ethnic minority participation at all levels of national, regional, and local government through the education of civil and political rights, including the legislative process and advocacy of legislative issues relevant to racial and ethnic minority communities, development of targeted professional development and hiring strategies, and increased youth and community outreach; Reaffirming our continued cooperation and commitment to work with our governments, international institutions, civil society, private sector, and other partners to improve institutions so that they are fully participatory and reflect the democratic principles of equality, justice, and celebration of the strengths of our countries’ diversity. In 2008, Congressman Hastings Chaired two U.S. Helsinki Commission hearings entitled: “The State of (In)visible Black Europe: Race, Rights, and Politics” and “Racism in the 21st Century: Understanding Global Challenges and Implementing Solutions.” At the hearings, the lack of minority representation in European policymaking, especially at national levels, was identified as a major obstacle to combating racism and discrimination by European witnesses. This prompted a call for a transatlantic dialogue on minority political participation that included best practices from the United States’ Civil Rights Movement. The resulting events have been the 2009 Black European Summit and 2010 Transatlantic Dialogue on Minority Political Leadership.

  • The Future of an Efficient Eurasian Transit System Stopped Dead in Its Tracks? A Report on the 18th Economic and Environmental Forum and the Future of Central Asian Road and Rail Transport

    By Josh Shapiro, Staff Associate The 18th Economic and Environmental Forum (EEF) was held this year on May 24-26, 2010, in Prague, Czech Republic with the theme of promoting good governance at border crossings, improving the security of land transportation, and facilitating international transport by road and rail in the OSCE region. The Forum brought together 42 of the 56 OSCE participating States, four Partners for Cooperation, multiple international organizations including the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the International Road Transport Union (IRU), and several business, academic, and non-governmental organizations. The EEF is annually the central event of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s economic and environmental activities. The Forum gives political impetus to dialogue in this area and provides recommendations for future follow-up activities. The EEF takes place in two parts, of which this meeting in Prague is the second; the first part was held on February 1-2, 2010 in Vienna, Austria. Two preparatory conferences for the Forum have also been held, the first in Astana, Kazakhstan on October 12-13, 2009 and the second in Minsk, Belarus on March 15-16, 2010. The 18th Economic and Environmental Forum in Review Transport is a crucial factor, not only between Asia and Europe, but around the world. The need for simplified systems, which can cut down transit times and costs for products, will enable countries to thrive from the revenue and job creation that it possesses to affected countries. Along with these positive factors comes the downside of such a new system. More corruption, environmental pollution, and the need for more security measures will all become new factors. The road to implementation of a fully integrated Eurasian transit system will be long and tough. A slew of major bumps along the way will surely slow the progress of long-term execution, which includes, but is not limited to, revising visa and customs procedures, rule of law issues between neighboring countries, smuggling of weapons and drugs, human trafficking concerns, and private and public sector corruption. Concerns about the increase of prices of goods due to delays from the aforementioned issues and improving customs systems have arisen, given that many neighboring countries have complex differences between them. Enhancement of cooperation between these participating States will be a critical test to the vitality of this proposed transit network and whether it will survive the many problems it faces. Prospects for the further development of efficient and secure transit transportation between Asia and Europe Improving Eurasian transport links can promote mutual economic growth and help overcome the current global economic recession. Further development will help facilitate positive partnerships between participating States, and will help stabilize the region. Additionally, landlocked countries will benefit greatly from the new trade routes built with their neighboring transit countries. The current state of transport links is in dire need of improvement. According to Russian Railways, building a 1520 millimeter gauge railway in Slovakia from Bratislava to Vienna, as well as associated logistics infrastructure, may be a breakthrough in developing the transport link from Europe through Central Asia to China. This proposed railway will attract freight traffic from numerous countries including Austria, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Slovenia, Serbia and Croatia. By building a new system, it will take approximately one-third of the transit time currently in place, helping move current maritime transport practices to more efficient and cost-effective road and rail transport. Rises in global economy are determined by transport, energy, climate, and water security. Building a new ground system will not, however, provide for a perfect method of transport, as an infrastructure without security is useless. Review of the implementation of OSCE commitments in the economic and environmental dimension The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) prepared a Review Report focused on the facilitation of international transport and the security of inland transport. In the report, there is discussion of the many challenges that an integrated Eurasian transport system faces. For example, road traffic safety, border crossing challenges, capacity and quality of road and rail infrastructure are just a few of the obstacles. There must be a shift from a national transit perspective to a regional perspective. Once integrated, there must be a shift from a regional to an inter-continental approach. Additional challenges include a development gap between countries, as some do not have the resources to build such an infrastructure. Investment in transport is a question of priority within a country, as some give precedence to other issues, regardless of what a neighboring participating State might do. CO2 abatement, traffic safety, and trade and transport facilitation need to be compared to security concerns. The lack of a current unified rail law is a major issue, and land transport security is currently well underestimated. According to the UNECE, road safety should be given priority when looking at security issues. In fact, more people have been killed since World War II on the roads than in the War itself. Currently, road and rail networks are not integrated fully, especially in Central Asia, and the need for an adequate and coherent system will be challenging. According to Ms. Eva Monár of UNECE, inland water transport is currently operable; however, efficient integration into the modern day system is lacking because not all countries border a body of water. The environmental impact of an expansion is of major concern, as air pollution causes health hazards and harms our atmosphere. The need for more efficient ‘green’ vehicles is recommended in some UNECE countries, as well as proposed paths around urban areas, reducing noise nuisance and smog. Promoting Good Governance in International Transportation and at Border Crossings Many barriers are faced in international transportation, including issues at border crossings. Approximately 40% of transit time is lost at border crossings as a result of bad governance and the lack of a simplified visa and customs process. Based off of numerous presentations, the need for cooperation between countries is a must and a proactive approach must be made. Procedures need to be modified so that freight traffic can move in a secure and regulated manner, and contractual frameworks need to be in place for joint liability between carriers and its customers. According to the International Rail Transport Committee (CIT), the OSCE could also play a role in locating and identifying efficient trade routes and motivate participating States to conduct pilot projects to check for potential issues. An example was given at the Forum of a demonstration train that the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) ran from Islamabad, Pakistan to Istanbul, Turkey in the fall of 2009. The run proved to potential private investors to take another look at its promise for faster and efficient trade, and this example particularly demonstrated the importance of political will from the States that took part. Regarding customs issues, The Arusha Declaration, adopted by the World Customs Organization in 1993 and revised in 2003, outlines a way forward to enhance integrity in the Customs environment. The revised Kyoto Convention is also key to implement, which harmonizes the customs clearing process. The major concern is the lack of integrity within the customs community and the strong need for governments to be fully committed to reduce corruption. For example, according to a representative of Azerbaijan, modernization of its procedures is already taking place and the amount of waiting time during its customs process has decreased ten-fold. Simplifying the documentation system and implementing a single window structure is the key, as well as training border patrol agents correctly on following up-to-date procedures. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development suggests that the implementation of existing conventions should be given priority and that public-to-public and public-to-private sector relations are both very important. The Rotterdam Rules were brought up, which were the result multilateral negotiations that took place within the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law for seven years starting in 2002. The Convention, signed by 21 countries including the United States, describes who is responsible and liable for what, and brings clarity under a single contract of carriage. Ireland, which will chair the OSCE in 2012, noted that the EU’s single window market took more than 40 years to implement and the longer term benefit of such a system far outweighs the potential loss of sifting through free trade agreements. Transport facilitation and Security in Central Asia and with Afghanistan Afghanistan currently faces numerous challenges when trading with its neighboring countries and the world. According to Mr. Ziauddin Zia, Adviser to the Minister of Commerce and Industry of Afghanistan, the obstacles include implementing second-generation policy reforms, the exorbitant cost of doing business, a weak-knowledge economy, and poor infrastructure. Tremendous progress has been made in Afghanistan, though, which has recently been torn with violence and corruption. There was a mention by Mr. Zia of the ‘World Bank’s Doing Business’ report, which lists economies on their ease of doing business, of which Afghanistan is ranked last out of 183 countries for the ease of trading across its borders. Poor road conditions hinder efficient trade, and the lack of access to Central Asia by rail limits the possibility of trade with neighboring States. In the long term, if reform in Afghanistan can be achieved in such challenging conditions, other countries can certainly do it as well. Mr. Thomas M. Sanderson, Deputy Director and Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), stressed the economic significance and geopolitical importance of Afghanistan due to its strategic location as the land bridge between the subcontinent, Central Asian states, and the Persian Gulf. Legal frameworks and capacity building through the OSCE could place an added value to the region as well. The Impact of Transportation on Environment and Security Many risks are associated with transcontinental transport, including shipping hazardous waste and dangerous goods. There was a focus on many instances where these materials are shipped through non-EU countries, which do not have to adhere to guidelines already in place. The need to adopt legislation for a single method system to then work with prior European legislation was a discussion topic, as well as the need for construction of secure railcars and subsequently a study of accident prevention. International training of monitoring personnel and trainers were brought to light, and the idea of translating more training manuals was suggested. Unfortunately, security is a major factor that is holding up talks to build an intercontinental rail transport system. Air transport is now secure but rail is certainly not. There are countless access points to terrorize a rail system, as opposed to scanning cargo and passengers in a secure arena such as an airport. Initial costs may increase to prevent terrorism and provide a more secure system, but the long-term economic benefits will make the venture worthwhile. Specific Transport Security Aspects and the Role of the OSCE The importance of land versus maritime transportation is quite evident, as virtually all freight is carried on roads at some point throughout the shipping-to-receiving process. The security aspect of land transportation is much more complex than that of sea, as there is much more potential of terrorist acts being carried through over such a vast area. Some argue, though, that there is an unwillingness of governments to compromise sovereignty in favor of international frameworks and measures. Enhancing inland transport security is key, though currently it appears to be under-protected, especially in the international law perspective. ‘Good practice’ sharing is an effective and inexpensive way to enhance transport security. The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe has organized an ‘Inland Transport Security Discussion Forum’ to provide dialogue on inland transport security issues. The threat of weapons of mass destruction remains but the need to focus on those areas in which cargo is relatively harder to protect is crucial. Closed methods of transport, including aviation (100% passenger and luggage screening) and maritime transport (almost 100% container scanning), might currently be used for global transit, though more of a look into inland transit needs to take effect. Inland transit remains open and accessible to security threats, and design safety standards on railcars and cargo vehicles need to improve. Current financial uncertainty will place greater scrutiny on the decision-making process, especially in the aspect of security. A look at history and past events, such as the Madrid, London, and Russian train bombings, will need to be integrated into the managerial process; however, there is no existing model that fully meets the need of a counter-terrorism security appraisal. Follow-up to the 18th Economic and Environmental Forum The Eighteenth Economic and Environmental Forum is a clear example that the OSCE is taking efforts to provide dialogue to facilitate and secure road and rail transportation, and an effective Eurasian transport system will be a long-term undertaking. Cooperation from neighboring countries and the perseverance of its people to one day be a part of a larger system than just their own will lead to lower overall priced goods and more security for its citizens. The U.S. welcomes further discussion by Kazakhstan, the current Chair-in-Office of the OSCE, of trade and transport ideas at the upcoming OSCE summit, as Kazakhstan is a land-locked country and could reap significant benefits from freer regional trade. Subsequent peace and stability would have a profound effect in the region, especially in Afghanistan where trade is hindered by corruption and the lack of efficient infrastructure. Although many agreements between participating States exist, overcoming the political and economic hurdles to effective implementation will remain the key impediment to success.

  • The Year in Review: OSCE Human Dimension Activities in 2009

    Prepared by the Staff of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe During 2009, the OSCE participating States addressed human dimension issues in numerous fora, including the weekly meetings of the Permanent Council in Vienna, regular meetings of the Human Dimension Committee, and various annually scheduled and ad hoc human dimension meetings. Throughout the year, events sharply illustrated the urgent need for greater respect for human rights and implementation of OSCE commitments. In addition, some changes to the way in which the participating States organize their human dimension meetings might improve the effectiveness of this area of the Organization’s work. 2010 ushers in the historic chairmanship of Kazakhstan – the first Central Asian state to lead the OSCE. Proponents of the Kazakhstan bid to lead the OSCE have suggested that its chairmanship will improve cooperation with other Central Asian participating States as well as Russia, and help reinvigorate the OSCE. Critics have expressed serious concern that the gap between Kazakhstan’s domestic human rights record and OSCE human rights commitments will undermine the credibility and integrity of the Organization it now leads. I. Human Rights Events in 2009 A pattern of escalating violence against Roma continued into 2009. In February, the home of a Romani family in Hungary was firebombed; the attackers shot and murdered Robert Csorba and his five-year-old son to keep them from escaping the flames. In April, a Romani home in the Czech Republic was also firebombed, leaving two-year-old Natalia Sivkova burned over 80% of her body. In April, another Romani man, Jeno Koka, was killed by sniper fire in Hungary, leaving his father – a Holocaust survivor – to bury him. In August, snipers in Hungary murdered a widow, Maria Balogh, while her 13-year-old daughter, Ketrin, was permanently injured. These events prompted Viktoria Mohacs, one of two Romani Members then serving in the European Parliament, to declare, “We can either set up an army or flee.” The United States Mission to the OSCE sought, but was unable to gain consensus on, a Permanent Council declaration addressing the spike in violence against Roma. At year’s end, however, the OSCE Ministerial Council in Athens adopted a decision which, among other things, “[u]rges the participating States to step up their efforts in promoting tolerance and combating prejudices against Roma and Sinti people in order to prevent their further marginalization and exclusion and to address the rise of violent manifestations of intolerance against Roma and Sinti as well as to unequivocally and publicly condemn any violence targeting Roma and Sinti . . . .” On the eve of the OSCE Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting on Freedom of Religion in July, Egyptian-born pharmacist Marwa el-Sherbini was brutally stabbed to death in a Dresden courtroom where she was scheduled to testify against her assailant regarding an altercation they had had a year earlier. In the first incident, the assailant verbally abused el-Sherbini at a neighborhood playground for wearing a hajib, a traditional head covering used by many Muslim women. At the conclusion of her testimony regarding that incident, the defendant lunged at El-Sherbini, who was three months pregnant, repeatedly stabbing her and her husband, who attempted to come to his wife’s aid. (In the confusion, police mistakenly shot el-Sherbini’s husband.) El-Sherbini died of her wounds, joining a growing number of victims of violence directed against minorities and immigrants in the OSCE region. In December, the OSCE Ministerial Council adopted another decision on hate crimes data, with a view to improving national mechanisms to combat them. Natalya Estemirova, a journalist and human rights defender affiliated with the leading Russian human rights organization, Memorial, was abducted in the Chechen capital, Grozny, on July 15. Her bullet-riddled remains were discovered later that day dumped along the side of a highway in neighboring Ingushetia. As she prepared to receive the first Anna Politkovskaya Award, named in honor of her slain colleague, Estemirova said that her goal was to solve at least one of the many missing persons cases in Chechnya. Estemirova, who devoted herself to documenting abductions and other human rights violations in that region of Russia, ultimately became a victim of the violence she worked hard to prevent. Her case, like those of scores of others murdered journalists and human rights defenders in Russia, remains unsolved. On the eve of the OSCE’s annual Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, the Russian Federation denied visas to two representatives of Reporters without Borders who were seeking to attend an event in Moscow commemorating the 3rd anniversary of Polikovskaya’s assassination. Subsequently, on the day of that meeting devoted to the subject of freedom of the media and free expression, Oleg Orlov, Director of the Russian human rights group, Memorial, was ordered to pay damages for allegedly defaming Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov. (After the murder of Natalya Estemirova, Orlov had suggested Kadyrov was responsible for her death by creating a climate in which such attacks could occur.) In 2009, a pattern of harassment, intimidation and violence against journalists in Central Asia intensified, and media laws have been stiffened across the region. Many of the journalists who have been attacked had ties to opposition parties in their countries. In December, two journalists were brutally murdered in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Gennady Pavlyuk was thrown out of a sixth-floor apartment window with his hands tied behind his back. Sayat Shulembaev was stabbed to death in an apartment following his reporting on Pavlyuk’s death. Earlier in 2009, a Kyrgyz journalist was reportedly beaten to death by eight policemen in the southern town of Osh, Kyrgyzstan. A new law in Kazakhstan introduces jail terms for crimes against privacy, which could further limit freedom of speech in the country and curb investigative journalism. Another new law proposes stricter control over the Internet and allows the state to block websites. The Government seized the print run of the newspaper RESPUBLIKA and froze its publisher's bank accounts after the BTA bank filed charges that the newspaper allegedly had printed false information about the bank's activities. Ramazan Esergepov, the editor in chief of the weekly newspaper ALMA-ATA INFO, was found guilty in August of allegedly releasing state secrets and sentenced to three years in prison. In July, leading Kazakhstani human rights activist Yevgeny Zhovtis was involved in a traffic accident in which a pedestrian was killed. Zhovtis, the director of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law, is also a member of the ODIHR Expert Panel on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly. Irregularities surrounding the initial investigation, prosecution and trial led Zhovtis and others to suspect that the criminal charges were politically motivated, prompting a series of protests, including at the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting. Following a short trial in early September, the outspoken critic of Kazakhstan’s human rights record was sentenced to four years in jail, just short of the maximum sentence allowed under Kazakhstan law. His appeal was dismissed in late October despite credible allegations of procedural flaws in his trial. Following the court proceeding, Zhovtis was transferred from Almaty to a labor camp in a remote section of northeastern Kazakhstan. On net, the manner in which authorities proceeded against Zhovtis have raised numerous serious questions not only about the rule of law in his case, but also about apparent efforts by the authorities to effectively banish him for the duration of Kazakhstan’s year-long chairmanship of OSCE in 2010. He has reported various forms of pressure by the prison authorities since his transfer. Throughout 2009, a Moscow-directed campaign of harassment against Jehovah’s Witnesses across the federation continued. This sets them apart from other religious groups in Russia that may face regional difficulties that do not appear to be directed from Moscow. Banned in Moscow since 2004, a nationwide campaign of official harassment of Jehovah’s Witnesses began in early 2009 when local prosecutors were instructed to probe actions of branches in their areas. Some 500 investigations are underway examining, among other things, alleged “extremism,” and both private homes and congregational buildings have been raided. On October 1, during the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, prosecutors in Gorno-Altaysk declared that 18 publications distributed by Jehovah’s Witnesses were “extremist” and therefore banned. In early December, the Russian Supreme Court upheld a ruling from a court in the Rostov region effectively banning 34 publications under Russia’s Federal Law on Counteracting Extremist Activity. Other Jehovah’s Witness publications were banned this year at the Russian-Finnish border by customs officials who said they might incite “religious hatred.” The Russian Supreme Court also let stand the liquidation of the Jehovah's Witness congregation in Taganrog as “extremist.” Following the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, two Kyrgyzstani NGO representatives reported that they were threatened for participating in the Warsaw meeting and for reporting on the situation of Kyrgyzstani migrant workers in Russia and Kazakhstan. On November 29, Switzerland held a referendum in which 57.5% of Swiss voters approved a constitutional amendment banning the construction of new minarets in the country. The referendum was initiated by right-wing and nationalist politicians from the Swiss People's Party and the Federal Democratic Union. While the Swiss Government opposed the measure, arguing that it was contrary to the Swiss Constitution and freedom of religion, a majority of voters supported its passage. Switzerland’s Muslim population is roughly four percent of the total population (approximately 350,000 people). There are currently four minarets in Switzerland, none of which are used to issue the call to prayer. Meanwhile, on December 2, the OSCE Ministerial Council reached agreement to hold a High-Level Conference on Tolerance and Non-Discrimination in June 2010. They declared that “. . . tolerance and non-discrimination are important elements in the promotion of human rights and democratic values and that respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, democracy and the rule of law is at the core of the OSCE comprehensive concept of security.” II. Human Dimension Activities Regularly scheduled meetings During the course of 2009, the participating States held several meetings that are mandated to be convened on an annual basis. These included three Supplementary Human Dimension Meetings in Vienna and a seminar in Warsaw. The topics for the three Supplementary Human Dimension Meetings are chosen by the Chair-in-Office (for 2009, Greece). The subjects chosen for 2009 were: Hate Crimes: Effective Implementation of Legislation (May 4-5); Freedom of Religion or Belief (July 9-10); and Gender Equality, with a special focus on combating violence against women (November 5-6). The participating States also convened a seminar selecting, by consensus decision of the 56 participating States, “constitutional justice” as the 2009 subject. The annual human dimension seminars are held in Warsaw. In addition, the OSCE Permanent Council established a Human Dimension Committee in 2007 that met regularly in Vienna throughout 2009, although those meetings are closed to the public and documents are limited to internal circulation. Ad hoc meetings In addition to these regularly scheduled events, a large number of ad hoc events were also organized by the participating States. On February 4, 2009, members of the Advisory Panel of Experts on Freedom of Religion or Belief held an informal briefing in Vienna for delegations to the Permanent Council. (The Advisory Panel consists of about 15 experts selected by the Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. They serve as a steering group for the full Panel of Experts, which consists of up to two members nominated by each of the participating States.) On March 4, 2009, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights convened a Roundtable in Vienna on “Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians, focusing on exclusion, marginalization and denial of rights.” On March 17, 2009, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights convened a Roundtable on “Combating Anti-Semitism.” (These three events were tied to a December 17, 2008, roundtable convened in Vienna by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights in Vienna on “Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims (with a focus on youth and education)”.) Other ad hoc human dimension meetings convened in 2009 included: The 9th “Alliance Against Trafficking in Persons” conference (September 14-15), which opened with a video address by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton;  An expert workshop on “public-private partnerships: engaging with the media in countering terrorism” (October 18-20), partially funded by the Moscow City Government, Russian Federation; The 2nd annual meeting of National Points of Contact on Combating Hate Crimes (October 28-29); An experts' workshop to examine ways to build trust and understanding between police and Romani communities, organized by the OSCE Strategic Police Matters Unit in co-operation with the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (also October 28-29); and AConference on Roma Migration and Freedom of Movement organized jointly by the OSCE, the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency and the Council of Europe (November 9-10). All of the ad hoc meetings were held in Vienna. III. The 2009 Human Dimension Implementation Meeting From September 28 to October 9, 2009, the OSCE participating States met in Warsaw, Poland, for the annual Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM). The meeting was organized by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, according to an agenda approved by consensus of all 56 participating States. The HDIM is Europe’s largest annual human rights gathering. The annual HDIM agenda provides a review of the implementation of the full range of core human rights and fundamental freedoms (e.g., freedoms of speech, assembly and association; prevention of torture; right to a fair trial), as well as rule of law, free elections and democracy-building issues. National minorities, Roma, tolerance and non-discrimination are also on the agenda. As at previous meetings, the allocation of time during the meeting remains highly problematic with speaking time at some of the sessions on fundamental freedoms limited to only one or two minutes to accommodate dozens desiring the floor, while other sessions ended early with time unused. In accordance with OSCE procedures, the agenda included three specially selected topics, each of which was given a full day of review. In 2009, those subjects were: 1) human rights education; 2) freedom of expression, free media and information; and 3) Roma/Sinti and, in particular, early education for Roma and Sinti children. The U.S. Delegation to the 2009 HDIM was headed by Dr. Michael Haltzel, Senior Fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies and former Senior Foreign Policy Advisor to Senator Joseph Biden. Other members of the delegation included Chargé d’Affaires Carol Fuller, U.S Mission to the OSCE; Bruce Turner, Director of European Security and Political Affairs, Department of State; Fred L. Turner, Chief of Staff of the Helsinki Commission; and Ambassador Douglas Davidson, Senior State Department Advisor to the Helsinki Commission. Petra Gelbart, Department of Musicology, Harvard University, and Dan Mariaschin, Executive Vice President, B'nai B'rith International, served as expert Public Members on the delegation. Assistant Secretary for Human Rights, Democracy, and Labor Michael Posner – confirmed just as the meeting opened – participated in the meeting and delivered the closing statement for the United States. The United States continued its longstanding practice of naming specific countries and cases of concern. During the meeting, Kazakhstan’s forthcoming chairmanship was an overarching concern – beginning when NGO demonstrators, during Kazakhstan’s opening statement, silently stood up wearing t-shirts supporting jailed human rights activist Evgeny Zhovtis. The Kazakhstani delegation was large and high-level, and numerous NGOs from Kazakhstan participated and criticized the country’s human rights record in light of its 2010 OSCE Chairmanship. Although Kazakhstani officials started the meeting on a good foot, their efforts at self-restraint failed over the course of the two–week long meeting and, at times, individual Kazakhstan officials demonstrated hostility and contempt towards some NGO participants from their country. A Russian theme throughout the meeting was concern for “historical revisionism” and the “falsification of history.” In its opening statement, Russia threatened to boycott next year’s HDIM if certain NGOs were permitted to participate, and Russian delegates walked out to protest whenever a representative of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society spoke. However, OSCE procedural rules – adopted by consensus – allow all NGOs to have access to human dimension meetings. Only “persons and organizations which resort to the use of violence or publicly condone terrorism or the use of violence” may be barred from participating; there are no other grounds for exclusion. As in past years, participation by European Union countries continued to be uneven; one observer remarked that “every EU statement is a statement of high principle devoid of any specifics.” The United Kingdom, however, sponsored a side event on freedom of expression and Slovenia organized an event on Romani educational assistants in Slovenia. As in the past, the United States faced criticism for retaining the death penalty. In addition, NGOs argued that there should be accountability for instances of torture perpetrated by U.S. officials (including those who ordered or authorized abuse), and access to justice for individual victims of torture. A large number of side events were also part of the HDIM, organized by non-governmental organizations, OSCE institutions, offices, or missions, other international organizations, or participating States. The United States convened a well attended side event on “The Role of the Human Dimension in European Security Architecture,” at which former U.S. Ambassador to the OSCE John Kornblum addressed this aspect of the Corfu process. Ambassador Kornblum’s remarks, as well as U.S. interventions, are available on the website for the U.S. Mission to the OSCE. IV. The Athens Ministerial In the run up to the Athens Ministerial, several draft decisions relating to human dimension subjects were circulated and negotiated. Most of them were prepared by the Greek chairmanship, including drafts on freedom of the media; combating hate crimes; enhancing OSCE efforts to ensure Roma and Sinti sustainable integration; the rule of law/access to justice; trafficking in human beings; and women's participation in political and public life. Separately, Belarus, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Russian Federation and Tajikistan circulated a draft decision on freedom of movement in the OSCE region. Their draft decision audaciously proposed that the OSCE participating States declare “a visa-free travel regime” to be their “strategic purpose” in the field of human dimension. Of the various drafts, only the decisions on enhancing OSCE efforts to ensure Roma and Sinti sustainable integration, on combating hate crimes, and on women's participation in political and public life were adopted. The draft decision on freedom of the media was lost in a shell game: Russia blocked that decision until agreement was reached on a separate declaration on the 65th anniversary of the end of World War II. However, once Russia agreed to the free media decision (having pocketed agreement on the 65th anniversary of the end of World War II), the free media decision was blocked by Uzbekistan. The draft decision on the rule of law/access to justice was, in any case, so muddled that that the OSCE community is better off without it. V. Observations for 2010 As the OSCE enters 2010, a number of observations may be made about the organization’s approach to the human dimension. Human Dimension Meetings First, the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting continues to be the most widely attended regional human rights meeting in Europe, and provides unparalleled opportunities for governments and non-governmental organizations to exchange views. The breadth of the agenda ensures that timely human dimension issues can be addressed. It is the anchor which grounds the OSCE’s human dimension discussions, sometimes serving as the forum where ideas for OSCE action and decisions are born and nurtured. But the record for other human dimension meetings remains mixed. As part of an effort to enhance its review of the implementation of OSCE human dimension commitments, the OSCE Permanent Council decided in 1998 to restructure the Human Dimension Implementation Meetings periodically held in Warsaw. In connection with this decision – which cut Human Dimension Implementation Meetings from three to two weeks – it was decided to convene annually three informal Supplementary Human Dimension Meetings in the framework of the Permanent Council. It was hoped that, by mandating the Chair-in-Office to select the subjects for those meetings (rather than selecting them by consensus), it would be possible to focus on issues that were timely, even if sensitive for some participating States. In fact, the subjects chosen by the Chair-in-Office for the Supplementary Human Dimension Meetings are often overly broad. But a meeting intended to be all things to all people is, finally, about almost nothing. Accordingly, the agendas for the Supplementary Human Dimension Meetings should be narrowly tailored. Moreover, although these meetings are, as a rule, held in Vienna to facilitate participation by the participating States’ missions to the OSCE and thereby bring the debate closer to the decision-makers, it is debatable whether the degree of engagement by Permanent Council delegations actually warrants continuing to hold these meetings in Vienna, as opposed to other cities. Varying the location of OSCE human dimension meetings makes the meetings more accessible to a broader segment of the OSCE public, as has been the case with ad hoc human dimension meetings held in The Hague, Berlin, Paris, Brussels, Bucharest, and Cordoba. (In addition, a Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting on “Defense Lawyers” was hosted by Georgia in Tbilisi in 2005.) The OSCE participating States should seek to hold more human dimension meetings in diverse locations, not just Vienna and Warsaw. In addition to the regularly scheduled Supplementary Human Dimension Meetings and the human dimension seminar in Warsaw, the OSCE participating States have organized an increasing number of ad hoc human dimension meetings. These meetings create both challenges and opportunities for the OSCE participating States. On the one hand, ad hoc meetings are often the result of initiatives taken by individual participating States (sometimes holding the chairmanship, sometimes not) that are willing to invest time, resources and political capital in a particular subject and, to that end, willing to host a special OSCE meeting on that subject. A few examples of such initiatives include a 2003 meeting in The Hague on human rights and counter-terrorism, a 2004 meeting in Paris on hate mongering on the Internet, the first high-level OSCE conference on anti-Semitism, convened in Berlin in 2004, and a 2006 meeting convened in Budapest to address issues relating to the so-called “Danish cartoon controversy.” These initiatives reflect the ability of the OSCE to address timely issues and to capitalize on political will and momentum. However, some other ad hoc meetings have been criticized for being hastily convened, for restricted participation that has sometimes excluded non-governmental representatives, and for a lack of transparency. Moreover, the sheer volume of ad hoc meetings runs the risk of dissipating the participating States’ focus, political capital, human resources, accountability and the ability or will to undertake meaningful follow up to these events. Accordingly, when the OSCE agrees to hold a special ad hoc conference or meeting, like the 2006 High-Level Meeting on Tolerance or the 2007 High-Level Meeting on the Victims of Terrorism, the OSCE participating States should agree to reduce the number of Supplementary Human Dimension Meetings in Vienna accordingly as part of an overall coordinated schedule. It is also critical that standards for NGO access to human dimension activities be maintained for ad hoc as well as regularly scheduled meetings. The Kazakhstani Chairmanship The Kazakhstani Chairmanship also presents significant challenges for the OSCE participating States in 2010. For some who were strongly opposed to giving Kazakhstan the chairmanship, the integrity of the OSCE as an institution is undermined by the disparity between the commitments adopted by the participating States and the practices of the government in Astana. In particular, the Kazakhstani chairmanship begins with the country’s most well-known human rights activist behind bars in a penal colony. Meanwhile, the same person who, in 1992, signed the Helsinki Final Act on behalf of a newly independent Kazakhstan remains firmly in office as President 18 years later. By assuming the leadership of the OSCE, Kazakhstan has ensured that its domestic human rights record will be under sustained and intense scrutiny throughout the year. Moreover, it remains to be seen how effectively Kazakhstan will steward the organization, and in particular, how it will bridge disparate views among participating States on future OSCE work in the human dimension.

  • Copenhagen Anniversary Conference

    By Orest Deychakiwsky, Policy Advisor Representatives from a majority of the 56 OSCE participating States and several dozen non-governmental organizations (NGOs) gathered in Copenhagen on June 10-11 to mark the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the 1990 Copenhagen Document and to assess implementation of key provisions of that landmark document. The anniversary conference, titled “20 years of the OSCE Copenhagen Document: Status and Future Perspectives,” was co-organized by the Kazakhstani OSCE Chairmanship and Denmark, and held at the Eigtveds Pakhus, Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Michael Haltzel led the U.S. delegation, which was joined by U.S. Ambassador to the OSCE, Ian Kelly and representatives from the OSCE Mission in Vienna, the State Department and the Helsinki Commission. Five substantive working sessions, reflecting some of the major themes of the groundbreaking Copenhagen Document, were held: Democratic processes – elections and human rights; Rule of Law; National Minorities; Freedom of Movement; and Measures to improve implementation of the human dimension commitments. Many speakers highlighted the historic importance of the Copenhagen Document, which offered a blueprint for pluralistic democratic development, rooted in the rule of law and protection of human rights, throughout the OSCE region – a revolutionary document at the time and one that remains highly relevant two decades later. The June 1990 Copenhagen Meeting came at a unique time in history when dramatic changes were taking place; the fall of the Berlin Wall and subsequent collapse of one-party regimes in Eastern Europe had taken place only months earlier. And the following year – 1991 -- witnessed the emergence of 15 independent states with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Truly, those were dynamic days during which sweeping new commitments -- which would have been impossible to garner consensus for years or even months prior -- received universal support. Indeed, it is questionable as to whether consensus to the Copenhagen agreement would be found today, given the democratic and human rights backsliding that has occurred in a number of participating States. The Copenhagen Document underlines the centrality of political pluralism, civil society and human rights as fundamental elements of functioning democracies. As Ambassador Max Kampelman, the head of the U.S. delegation to the 1990 conference summed it up, “In effect, the Copenhagen document represents the first formal proclamation, by the States themselves, of a Europe both whole and free.” It identified the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms as one of the basic purposes of government and acknowledged that democracy is an inherent element of the rule of law. Among the achievements of the Copenhagen Document were the far-reaching commitments on democratic elections which laid the groundwork for the OSCE’s future activities with respect to election observation. Copenhagen also represented a significant step forward with respect to the protection of minorities, and for the first time there was a direct reference to Roma and to anti-Semitism. While participants at the anniversary meeting underscored the significant progress over the last 20 years, many also called for fuller compliance with the Copenhagen commitments, noting, for instance, backsliding in holding democratic elections in some participating States; suppression of civil society, including independent media, NGOs and human rights defenders; the deficit of impartial and independent justice; and the lack of separation of powers – especially the concentration of power in the executive. The last session of the conference discussed measures to improve implementation of human dimension commitments, including the prevention of human rights violations through the use of reporting before the violations occur; enhancement of standards and commitments; strengthened monitoring mechanisms, including a U.S. proposal to dispatch special representatives to investigate reports of egregious human rights violations and make corrective recommendations before the violations become entrenched; and improved cooperation with, and involvement of, civil society actors in advancing democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Ultimately, however, compliance with existing standards enshrined in the Copenhagen Document, the Helsinki Final Act and all other OSCE commitments remains the primary responsibility of the participating State.

  • Eurasian Energy Resources and Energy Security

    By Shelly Han, Policy Advisor Turkmenistan is an emerging energy powerhouse. It is home to several of the world’s largest gas fields, with proven reserves of two trillion cubic meters, ranking fifth among all world gas producers. It recently opened new pipelines to Iran and China, which significantly changes the political dynamic of gas exports since Turkmenistan was previously dependent upon gas pipelines through Russia. Despite the growth of oil and gas exports, the political environment in Turkmenistan remains repressive, and the country has yet to emerge from the years of self-imposed isolation it entered during the presidency of Saparmyrat Niyazov. At a conference May 3-4, 2010, sponsored by Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Government of Turkmenistan entitled “Strengthening regional cooperation in Central Asia for promoting stable and reliable energy within Eurasia,” Helsinki Commission staff had the opportunity to discuss developments in regional energy issues and meet with experts in Ashgabat to learn more about how the United States and the OSCE can advance energy security and human rights goals there. As the cleanest fossil fuel, natural gas is taking on a bigger role as a potential source to transition the world away from more carbon-intensive oil consumption in order to meet climate change goals. That places Turkmenistan in a good position to capitalize on their abundant natural resources. Most observers, however, agree that in order to do that Turkmenistan must act quickly to find and lock-in markets since the advent of new shale gas into the market significantly changes the dynamics of how natural gas markets in the United States and Western Europe will be supplied. One industry panelist noted that there will be a shortfall in gas supply by 2015, signaling the need to get multiple pipelines up and running in the near future. He stated that the balance between supply and demand means that the highly politicized competition between Nord Stream, Southstream and Nabucco should be stopped—because, in fact, all of these pipelines are needed to supply the marketplace. If reserve estimates are to be believed, then Turkmenistan has the gas to be the key player in bringing increased gas supplies to Europe. Gas could get to Europe through the existing Russia pipeline or through the proposed Nabucco pipeline which would cross the Caspian Sea and go through Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. Whether or not Turkmenistan can or will participate in Nabucco depends on whether it can develop a legal framework for the transit of Turkmen gas across the Caspian Sea to join up with Nabucco in Azerbaijan. Stalled discussions on delimitation of the Caspian mean that the construction of a pipeline across the Caspian will not happen soon. Even as logistical issues pose a significant hurdle for Nabucco, the political hurdles for Europe are just as daunting. There is no single European gas market, so even though demand will grow for Europe overall, Europe itself has not been able to construct a framework in which it can negotiate for gas supply as a single market. With each country trying to set up its own arrangements, they do not achieve the efficiency of scale or the demand needed to drive the large infrastructure investments needed to bring more gas to Europe. In contrast, China was able to build a pipeline from Turkmenistan to China (more than 1,000 miles in length) in just two years. The conference attracted a number of high-level speakers from Europe and Central Asia and fostered a more direct dialogue than OSCE conferences past on economic and political problems that are prohibiting a pipeline link with Europe through the Caspian. The event also provided a significant opportunity for discussion of regional energy security in a country that is often outside the multilateral dialogue framework. The OSCE has issued several statements recognizing the need to tackle corruption in the extractive industries as a means to create more stable markets and achieve greater energy security and respect for human rights through good governance in resource rich countries. Therefore, it was disappointing that during the two-day event the U.S. delegation was the only one to raise the issue of corruption in the oil and gas sector—corruption that is endemic not only in Turkmenistan, but throughout the OSCE region. For example, in Turkmenistan, there have been numerous credible reports of the lack of transparency in how the government is receiving and spending the billions of dollars it earns from exporting oil and gas. Recently, Turkmenistan announced it had established a new stabilization fund for a portion of its oil and gas revenues. Often these funds are used by resource-rich countries to not only hedge against currency fluctuations, but to also invest for the future of the country by ensuring the funds are wisely spent on projects that benefit the citizens as a whole. Helsinki Commission staff requested to meet with the stabilization fund managers to learn how Turkmenistan planned to use its fund, but the request was denied by the Turkmenistan government. Questions remain about how the government is spending its significant gas wealth. The proliferation of white-marble high rises and the ever-multiplying size and number of ornate fountains built in the middle of the desert and the lack of basic water and electricity in much of the countryside seemed to provide some concerning answers.

  • 2009 OSCE Mediterranean Conference in Cairo is a Sucess

    By Alex Johnson, Policy Advisor and Marlene Kaufmann, General Counsel In December 2009, Commission staff attended the 2009 OSCE Mediterranean Conference on “The Mediterranean Partners and the OSCE: Cooperation Toward Enhanced Security and Stability” in Cairo, Egypt. This conference brought together 33 of the 56 OSCE participating States, four of the Asian Partners for Cooperation (Australia, South Korea, Japan, and Thailand), and representation from all of the Mediterranean Partners for Cooperation. The Palestinian National Authority attended at the invitation of the host government. The conference featured three sessions focusing on the politico-military aspects of security in the OSCE area, implications of the current financial crisis on migration, and prospects for OSCE Mediterranean Cooperation. These sessions featured presentations from Mediterranean Partner OSCE delegations, academics, international organizations, and relevant ministry representatives. Participation in this conference was at a high level with the majority of the participating States and all of the Mediterranean Partners for Cooperation represented by their Ambassadors to the OSCE. Members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE in attendance included a Vice-President and officers of two of the Assembly’s General Committees. Discussion in all of the sessions was lively with active participation by the Ambassadors, particularly those representing the Mediterranean Partners, as well as other public and private sector participants. A number of themes emerged across the sessions including agreement that the partnership between the OSCE participating States and their Mediterranean Partners has strengthened. The establishment of the Partnership Fund and the Athens’ Ministerial invitation to the Partners to contribute to the Corfu Process are largely attributed with bolstering the strength of the Partnership. Findings included a future activity emphasis on specific areas of cooperation by setting both short and long-term goals and providing a mechanism to assess effectiveness. In addition, the OSCE Mediterranean Partnership should undertake its work in coordination with other regional organizations and institutions, through which the possibility of expanding the Partnership could be considered. Session 1: Politico-military aspects of security in the OSCE area and the Mediterranean The session’s moderators were Ambassador Ian Cliff, Head of the delegation of the United Kingdom to the OSCE and Ambassador Taous Feroukhi, Permanent Representative of Algeria to the OSCE. Panelists included Mr. Pascal Heyman, Deputy Director of the OSCE Conflict Prevention Center, Ambassador Gyorgy Molnar, Head of the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Hungary to the OSCE, and Dr. Mostafa Elwy Saif, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Political Science, Cairo University and Member of the Shura Council. Ambassador Cliff opened the discussion by pointing out that the OSCE had developed expertise on crisis prevention and conflict resolution, particularly regarding protracted conflicts. He believes there has recently been some incremental progress. Pascal Heyman emphasized that the OSCE has developed a unique conflict prevention and resolution expertise through constant political dialogue, dedicated crisis management mechanisms such as fact-finding missions, the Conflict Prevention Center, confidence and security building measures and the establishment of field operations. While these are effective tools, Heyman maintained that workable and lasting conflict resolution depends ultimately on the political will of the participating States and the parties in a conflict. Ambassador Molnar spoke to the destabilizing consequences of transnational or multi-dimensional threats to security in the OSCE space. He noted that participating States are attempting to address these threats through the Maastricht Strategy and decisions adopted at both the Madrid and Athens Ministerials regarding transnational threats, combating terrorism, and promoting effective law enforcement and police training programs. Dr. Saif presented a detailed review of Egypt’s political and military security concerns and concluded that the primary challenges to his country’s security stem from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Iran’s regional and nuclear ambitions, water shortages, the political situations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. Ambassador Feroukhi said that the absence of a dedicated institutional forum in the Mediterranean region hampered the development of effective security mechanisms but felt that the development of confidence-building measures – particularly involving civil society and academic communities – should be encouraged as a first step. She also agreed that a just resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and better protection of the environment were vital for the stability and security of the Mediterranean region. All delegations who participated in the discussion welcomed the Athens Ministerial decision to invite input from the Partners for Cooperation on furthering the Corfu Process. A number of delegations raised the possibility of enlarging the Mediterranean Partnership to include the Palestinian National Authority, while others pointed out the difficulties of doing so, due to the fact that the OSCE is a state-based organization. The Partnership Fund was hailed as an effective tool to enhance the Mediterranean Partnership and it should continue to be used to sustain a culture of cooperation, including the possible creation of a clearing house on water issues within the OSCE. It was also stressed that the OSCE should coordinate its activities with relevant international and regional organizations. The moderators stated the following conclusions emanating from the discussion: The confidence and security building measures as well as early warning mechanisms developed in the framework of the OSCE could serve as a model and help to foster cooperation and confidence in the Mediterranean region; the participation of the Partners in the Corfu process should enhance the Mediterranean Partnership; and, the Partnership should move forward based on concrete, achievable objectives with possible long-term goals of establishing a Mediterranean conflict prevention center and developing regional codes of conduct to enhance dialogue and cooperation. Session 2: Implications of the current economic and financial crisis on migration The second session was moderated by Mr. Daman Bergant, Head of the OSCE Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Slovenia, and panelists included Ambassador Omar Zniber, Head of the Delegation of the Kingdom of Morocco to the OSCE, and Ms. Rebecca Bardach, Director of the Center for International Migration and Integration of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. Mr. Bergant began the session by explaining that the global economic and financial crisis has an impact on migration and development. He outlined several topics to guide the discussion including the development of cooperative migration policies between the OSCE and the Mediterranean Partners; dialogue on how to prevent and combat illegal migration; international and regional cooperation on preventing trafficking in human beings, including trafficking for forced labor; protecting the human rights of migrants, including through combating hate crimes; and, the role of migrants in promoting tolerance and non-discrimination. Ambassador Zniber spoke to the impact of the current economic crisis on both migrants and development. He pointed out that the impact of the crisis makes migrants even more vulnerable and they face increased discrimination and further marginalization in society. Decreasing remittances, said the Ambassador – 10 to 15% in 2009 according to the World Bank – are a destabilizing factor, impacting countries of origin like Morocco which are particularly dependent on revenues from abroad. The Ambassador welcomed the Athens Ministerial Council Decision on migration management and urged that the OSCE continue its work in this area, in particular, by facilitating dialogue, exchanging best practices and fighting discrimination against migrants. Specifically, he recommended that the OSCE and its Mediterranean Partners establish a working group on migration management and related security aspects; develop a multi-dimensional and long-term approach on migration management; promote regional cooperation and partnerships between all responsible parties including countries of origin, transit and destination, civil society and the private sector; create reintegration and training programs; and, protect the human rights of migrants and their families. Ms. Bardach gave a comprehensive review of migration issues impacting Israel. She explained that only in the last two decades has Israel seen a significant increase in migration flows across its borders. This is presenting challenges to the government in managing migration and dealing with large numbers of refugees, asylum seekers, and labor migrants, in addition to human smuggling and trafficking. While Israeli efforts to combat trafficking for sexual exploitation have resulted in marked progress, she said, efforts to combat labor trafficking are still in their infancy. Based on this experience, Ms. Bardach suggested that the OSCE should develop policies to address irregular recruitment practices and raise awareness about such practices; develop cooperation on both the regional and bilateral level to increase information sharing, strengthen border controls and address the humanitarian needs of migrants; develop culturally sensitive tools for law enforcement officials; and, improve the reception and registration of refugees, including assisted voluntary return. During the discussion following the panel presentations, a number of delegations echoed the view that the OSCE and its Mediterranean Partners should serve as a broad regional platform for a coordinated dialogue on migration, and should develop a comprehensive strategy to prevent cross-border trafficking that includes the private sector. The contributors in this session demonstrated the need for better data collection and sharing regarding migration in the Euro-Mediterranean context. This goal was identified as a potential priority for the Partnership Fund. Proposals distributed by the Moroccan and Egyptian delegations have both cited the importance of developing research institutions, which could serve to further the goal of better data collection and expertise sharing. Session 3: Prospects for OSCE Mediterranean Cooperation The third session Chaired by Ambassador Kairat Abdrakhmanov, Head of the Permanent Mission of Kazakhstan to the OSCE and Chair of the OSCE Permanent Council, focused on a review of achievements to date in improving dialogue and cooperation between the participating States and the Mediterranean Partners, and developing effective follow-up on recommendations of previous seminars and ministerial declarations referencing the Partners. Featured speakers were Ambassador Makram Queisi, Permanent Representative of Jordan to the OSCE, and Mr. Agustin Nunez, Deputy Head of Mission of the Permanent Mission of Spain to the OSCE. Ambassador Queisi presented four areas in which he felt cooperation could improve the relationship between the OSCE and the Mediterranean region – environmental aspects of security such as soil erosion, desertification and water management including the possible creation of an environmental data collection center in the region; enhanced border security to combat terrorism and trafficking including cooperation with the Regional Counter Terrorism Training Center in Jordan; combating discrimination against Muslims; and developing nuclear non-proliferation strategies for the region. The Ambassador also stated his view that Partner status should be granted to the Palestinian National Authority as a confidence building measure. Mr. Nunez reviewed the development of the participating State’s cooperation with their Mediterranean Partners including increased participation by Mediterranean Partners in OSCE activities and recent examples of concrete cooperation on issues such as countering terrorism, promoting tolerance and freedom of the media, and enhancing border management. He emphasized the importance of having a strategic vision for the Partnership and commended the proposal by the Kazakh Chair of the Mediterranean Contact Group that three priority areas should be identified for developing projects to be financed by the Partnership Fund. Mr. Nunez concurred with Ambassador Queisi’s view that the Partnership should be enlarged to include the Palestinian National Authority and noted that Spain had circulated two food-for-thought papers on this topic in 2008. Following the presentations, active debate among the delegations ensued and focused primarily on the current status of the Partnership and its achievements to date, proposals for additional areas of cooperation, procedural improvements and the issue of possible enlargement of the Partnership. Enhanced cooperation in the areas of promoting tolerance and non-discrimination, freedom of the media, gender, combating trafficking in human beings, energy security, security aspects of climate change, water management and fighting corruption, drug trafficking and terrorism was discussed. It was suggested that working groups should be established to examine these issues and make recommendations for action. Participants also called for the establishment of a system for effective follow-up on recommendations and agreed proposals, as well as enhanced coordination with other regional institutions and organizations. The participants actively discussed the question of enlarging the Mediterranean Partnership with some participants supporting the granting of Partner status to the Palestinian National Authority as a confidence building measure conducive to dialogue and peace in the region. Debate over this particular consideration illuminated the need for an expeditious response to the request of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) to become an OSCE Mediterranean Partner for Cooperation. It is apparent that a number of participating States and partners recognize the value of their participation in Mediterranean Dimension activities. Yet, disagreement arises when considering the implications of recognizing a territory as a full-fledged partner. Some participating States see the case of the PNA as unique in that there is already international agreement on the existence of a future Palestinian State. Other participating States believe that affording a territory official status sets a precedent for other territories seeking recognition in the OSCE region. A number of these leaders believe that a future Palestinian State should be granted partner status after formal international recognition. Thus, it will be unlikely that consensus on partnership with the PNA will be reached at this time and the OSCE Chair-in-Office should issue a formal response acknowledging this. The question of PNA participation will continue to mire productive dialogue on other opportunities for cooperation until a decisive response is issued by the OSCE Chair-in-Office. Alternatives for their participation should however be explored. Some possibilities include establishment of an alternative status of “observer” or other title within the framework of the Partners for Cooperation to allow for a transitional process of full recognition as a Partner. In addition, some sort of agreement should be established on recommended countries outside of the Mediterranean Partnership for invitations to OSCE Mediterranean Dimension activities. Conclusion: Future Considerations for Annual Conference Administration A tremendous success of the 2009 Mediterranean Conference was the engagement of the Ambassadors from the Mediterranean Partners in the agenda. Each panel featured a Mediterranean Partner Ambassador, which helped balance the contributions during the discussion. Previous conferences did not adequately balance the opportunities for contributions between the Mediterranean Partners and the OSCE participating States. In the most grievous of incidences, panelists and participating States at the 2008 Mediterranean Conference in Amman, Jordan took so much time during the discussion that contributions from representatives of the Partners were significantly curtailed. It only makes sense that the contributions of the Partners be prioritized when the purpose of the conference is enhancing cooperation with their respective countries. Meaningful participation by the Partners remains the only way to sustain the future of the OSCE Mediterranean Dimension. A recurring challenge of the annual Mediterranean conference is a lack of willingness to host the event among the Mediterranean Partners. The venue question remains an issue that paralyzes cooperation among the Mediterranean Partners and has the potential to diminish the productivity of the conference each year. The venue question stems from a number of factors. Not only is the conference capital-intensive for the hosting State, political considerations regarding the participants in the OSCE Mediterranean Dimension keep Partners like Algeria and Tunisia from taking a leadership role in hosting the event. Thus, active Partners like Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Israel bear the burden of hosting the conference most frequently. Ownership of the OSCE Mediterranean Dimension through hosting the conference and originating initiatives remains an ideal that the partnership should aspire to. However, it is not unprecedented that participating States would host the conference. Previous Mediterranean seminars were hosted by Greece (2002), Croatia (2001), Slovenia (2000), and Malta (1998), prior to the elevation of the event to a “conference” by the Greek chairmanship of the OSCE in 2008. Participating States have offered to host the upcoming 2010 conference. Proceeding with an established venue earlier in the year may provide for more time for substantive topic development. Such a deviation from Mediterranean Partner ownership of the event should be seen as an exception until a more appropriate mechanism for rotating the responsibility of hosting the conference is devised. The 2009 Mediterranean Conference was well executed by the Egyptian government, especially considering the short time between their final commitment to do so and the date of the event. However, NGO participation was notably missing. The 2008 OSCE Mediterranean Conference in Amman featured a session for NGOs from throughout the Mediterranean region on the day prior to the conference and subsequently included a robust NGO presence during the conference proceedings. OSCE Participating States led by the United States made extra-budgetary contributions to the OSCE Partnership Fund to help facilitate a robust NGO presence. International organization representatives that were invited to present on the session panels in the 2009 Cairo conference were among the few non-governmental participants present. It is true that participating States lack the wherewithal to contribute annually to facilitate an NGO presence especially given global fiscal challenges. However, exploring partnerships with appropriate foundations, endowments, and institutions involved in Euro-Mediterranean engagement may result in a consistent and strong NGO presence at events within the OSCE Mediterranean Dimension.

  • More Power to More People: Lessons from West Africa on Resource Transparency

    By Shelly Han, Policy Advisor In its ongoing effort to fight corruption and increase energy security, the U.S. Helsinki Commission has worked in recent years to help countries fight the resource curse. That is the phenomenon in which countries that are rich in oil, gas or minerals—resources that should be a boon to their economy—suffer lower economic growth and higher poverty than countries without extractive resources. As the Commission’s energy policy advisor, I traveled in September 2009 with other Congressional staff to Ghana and Liberia to see how these two countries are managing their resources. This was an oportunity to compare the experience of these countries with that of resource-rich countries like Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, who participate in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Specifically, our goal was to study implementation of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in Ghana and Liberia, and gauge the impact of corruption in the extractive industries on the political, social and economic climate. EITI is a groundbreaking program because it pierces the veil of secrecy that has fostered tremendous corruption in the extractive industries around the world. At its heart, EITI is a good governance initiative that brings together the companies, the government and civil society to ensure revenue is generated for the benefit of the people, not just hidden in Swiss bank accounts. The meetings in Africa were also part of the Commission’s work promoting the Energy Security Through Transparency Act (S. 1700), a bill designed to increase transparency in the oil and gas industry. The bill, introduced by Commission Chairman Senator Benjamin L. Cardin and Senator Richard G. Lugar (R-IN), expresses support for U.S. implementation of EITI. In Ghana and Liberia, staff met with government officials, non-governmental organizations, civil society leaders, the business community, U.S. Embassy staff and other groups, trying to get as broad a perspective as possible on issues related to energy transparency. Ghana Ghana is a country of 23 million citizens on the west coast of Africa. Considered one of the bright spots in terms of political and economic development in the region, President Obama came here in his first presidential trip to Africa. Known as the Gold Coast in colonial times, gold mining remains one of Ghana’s primary exports. With significant foreign investment from mining, one might think that Ghana had hit pay dirt for its economy, unfortunately, this hasn’t been the case. Almost 80 percent of Ghanaians live on less than $2 a day. Gold mining in Ghana is estimated to contribute about 40 percent of total foreign exchange earnings and 6 percent of GDP. In 2007, the discovery of oil in the offshore Jubilee field launched wild expectations—and fears—for Ghana’s future. The oil and gas could bring in about $1 billion a year for Ghana, which is about 25 percent of the government’s budget. But there are fears that the windfall will increase corruption and do little to help Ghana’s citizen’s rise out of poverty. But there is hope. In 2003 Ghana committed to implementing EITI for its mining sector and Ghana remains a candidate country today. Ghana has an EITI Secretariat and a Multi Stakeholder Steering Group in place. The country has appointed an independent EITI Aggregator/Auditor who has produced three audit reports and Ghana will shortly go through an independent audit process in order to be validated as an EITI country. Most importantly, Ghana has pledged to implement EITI in the oil and gas sectors. During the trip, we met with a number of government officials, including the Minister of Energy and the Minister of Finance. I was impressed with their commitment to establishing an EITI process for the oil and gas revenues. While the process is not complete, and is certainly not perfect, we are optimistic that Ghana will build on the EITI progress they have already made in the mining sector and achieve similar results for the oil and gas sectors. The international community is providing significant assistance. In meetings with U.S. officials, we learned that U.S. aid agencies will begin work in Ghana aimed at strengthening parliamentary oversight, improving regulatory, legal and fiscal management, and helping Ghana develop a workforce to meet the needs of the oil and gas sector. Liberia Our experience in Liberia was more sobering. Five years after a devastating civil war, Liberia struggles to move on. Fourteen-thousand United Nations troops remain in the country as peacekeepers. Eighty percent of the country’s 3.5 million citizens are unemployed. Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a Harvard-trained economist and Africa’s first female president, has worked to stimulate investment and create job opportunities. But this is an uphill battle given the years of education and infrastructure lost during the civil war. Extractive industries such as iron ore, gold, rubber and diamonds do provide some revenue, but the highest hopes for export revenue are placed on Liberia’s extensive forests. Sustainable timber harvesting could provide up to 60 percent of Liberia’s revenue and the international community and Liberia have spent several years and millions of dollars to make the forestry sector sustainable. Liberia joined EITI in 2006, just a couple of years after the end of the civil war that decimated the economy and put Liberia at almost the bottom of the UN Human Development Index. It is the first country to include forestry under the rubric of EITI. On July 10, 2009, the President of Liberia signed into law the Act Establishing the Liberia EITI, making Liberia only the second country in the world (following Nigeria) to pass dedicated EITI legislation. Many implementing countries have issued presidential or ministerial decrees or have amended existing legislation to establish a legal framework for the initiative. The legislation goes beyond the core EITI requirements because it covers the forestry and rubber sectors, as well as oil, gas and mining. But contract disputes and the economic downturn have hindered the resumption of large-scale logging in Liberia. We met with logging companies, government officials and civil society to hear the problems and were discouraged by the lack of progress. It is clear that while tremendous strides have been made in transparent reporting of revenues, there is precious little revenue to report. We spoke with some groups who were hopeful that with a strong focus on improving governance, it is possible that Liberia could develop forestry projects eligible for international carbon offsets. These offsets could generate revenue for Liberia and help meet global climate change goals at the same time. Conclusion In contrast with other EITI countries such as Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, we were struck by the comparatively good relations the Ghana and Liberia government ministries enjoy with civil society, and the clear desire they have shown to work together. Citizen participation was very strong in both African countries, perhaps due to the extensive public awareness campaigns that have educated citizens on their right to follow the money trail from extractive revenues. EITI is far from the magic bullet to solve corruption problems in West Africa or elsewhere. But Ghana and Liberia show that incremental progress is possible, and that transparency in the extractive industries can build a foundation for good governance in other sectors as well.

  • Greek Chairmanship Moves the OSCE Back Toward Its Hallmark Values

    By Winsome Packer, Helsinki Commission Representative to the US Mission to the OSCE and Douglas Davidson, Senior State Department Advisor What a difference a year can make. The 2008 Ministerial meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Helsinki was marked by lingering animosity and distrust exacerbated by the Russia-Georgia war a few months before. The OSCE’s 2009 Ministerial in Athens, by contrast, proceeded much more smoothly, setting the stage for the return to more positive and productive political dialogue among the Organization’s participating States. This was a welcome change, for in recent years discord and inertia have steadily eroded the cooperation and consensus that were once the hallmarks of the OSCE. Recognizing this, in their meeting in Helsinki in December of 2008, the 56 foreign ministers or their representatives had agreed on the need for the OSCE to seek ways to overcome distrust and paralysis. In the course of 2009 the Greek Chairmanship then initiated what came to be called the Corfu Process, which was named after the venue for a midsummer informal meeting of foreign ministers, with the aim of doing just that. Part of this process was also to focus on European security, and not least on a key component of existing European security architecture, the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE), with which the Russian Federation suspended compliance two years ago. For their Ministerial Council meeting in December of 2009, the Greeks set as their priorities the approval of a political declaration – something that hadn’t been achieved in a number of years – together with a separate political declaration on the Corfu Process and an operational decision on the continuation of that process during the 2010 Kazakh Chairmanship. By the time delegations reached Athens there were, in addition to six other human dimension draft decisions prepared by the Greeks, a plethora of additional draft decisions submitted by the participating States in all three dimensions. Of these, the Ministers agreed on decisions that addressed such fundamental and persistent problems as hate crimes, tolerance and nondiscrimination, nonproliferation, terrorism, and the “protracted conflict” in Nagorno-Karabakh. Among these approved decisions was also one on countering transnational threats jointly sponsored by the United States and Russia, the first such collaboration between the two nations in several years. Russia also distributed a draft European Security Treaty on the eve of the Ministerial, though it did so bilaterally and outside the official confines of the OSCE. Nevertheless, Foreign Minister Lavrov seems to have expected that it would be discussed during the Ministerial Council. In the event, however, it was not. The participating States indicated instead a willingness to study and discuss the proposal within the Corfu Process. Some other significant decisions did not make it through either. Among them, for the eighth year in a row, was the overall political declaration. It failed to achieve consensus mainly because of disagreements between the NATO allies and the Russian Federation over language on the CFE. When the imminent demise of the political declaration became apparent, attempts immediately began to find a place for the paragraph it had contained on a summit in 2010, the highest priority for the incoming OSCE Chair, Kazakhstan. In the end this paragraph, in slightly modified form, wound up in the Corfu Process declaration, with language personally hammered out by Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, who led the U.S. delegation, with Kazakh Foreign Minister Saudabayev. In the final minutes of the meeting, Uzbekistan demanded that the phrase “We note positively” revert to the original “We note with interest,” but otherwise allowed the rest of the revised and more forward-leaning language on the summit to go through. Earlier the President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, in his remarks to the Ministerial Council, had argued strongly for a summit. Deputy Secretary Steinberg’s enthusiasm was, despite his helpful intervention, reportedly more tempered. A decision on freedom of the media, a U.S. priority, was not adopted in the end either, owing to last-minute objections from Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. This decision had been the subject of much horse-trading, and the U.S. went into the final session believing it had a deal with the Russian Federation: In return for American assent to a decision on the 65th Anniversary of the Second World War, they would back the media decision, which was already at a state reduced enough to cause some anxiety among media freedom experts. In the end, however, the Russians could not persuade Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan to go along. Turkmenistan argued that proper consultations had not been held with their delegation to enlist their support. Even so, the U.S. lifted its blockage of the World War II decision, which was, in essence, a response to the resolution approved during the 2009 annual Parliamentary Assembly meeting in Vilnius referencing Nazism and communism and was an important priority for the Russian delegation. Attempts to issue statements or decisions on Moldova and Georgia also foundered, though the ministers at least managed a declaration on Nagorno-Karabakh, one hammered out by the Minsk Group. Another decision on trafficking in human beings also failed to achieve consensus. Russia, along with its allies, had also pressed hard for a decision to reopen the Vienna Document of 1999 for “updating”, but it failed in the face of opposition from western allies. A draft decision on climate change also failed, largely because of Russian opposition, as did a decision on democratic lawmaking, in which the Parliamentary Assembly had pressed for reference to the institutions to be consulted in developing a best practice guide. Other draft decisions such as one on the greening of the OSCE were referred to the Permanent Council for action It remains to be seen whether they will fare any better in that venue in 2010.

  • Corruption: A Problem that Spans the OSCE Region and Dimensions

    By Troy C. Ware, with contributions from Shelly Han In July 2008, Members of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) and other Members of Congress traveled to Astana, Kazakhstan for the seventeenth Annual Session of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA). The session’s theme was “Transparency in the OSCE.” At the outset of the trip, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings, then Chairman of the Commission, remarked that while he supported the candidacy of Kazakhstan for the Chairmanship of the OSCE it was “imperative that the government undertake concrete reforms on human rights and democratization.”1 A number of nongovernmental organizations have cited the high level of corruption in Kazakhstan as one impediment to democratic reform. Kazakhstan is by no means alone. Recognizing the existence of corruption throughout the OSCE region, Helsinki Commissioners have consistently addressed the problem by raising it through hearings, legislation, and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. Hearings in 2006 identified corruption as a hindrance to fulfilling human rights commitments and economic development in South-Central Europe (Helsinki Commission June 2006 Hearing). The role of corruption as a force in restricting freedom of the media in Azerbaijan was highlighted in a 2007 hearing (Helsinki Commission August 2007 Hearing). This report will draw attention to recent initiatives undertaken by the Helsinki Commission that have shown corruption undermines human rights, fundamental freedoms and overall security. Wherever found, corruption not only stunts democratic reform, but also weakens the security and economic condition of states. Although corruption manifests itself in various ways, this report can practically only discuss a few. For example, prominent manifestations within the three OSCE dimensions discussed include parliamentary corruption, diversion of funding from infrastructure and human trafficking. Understandably, countries will not solve a widespread and pervasive problem with a singular approach. Additionally, this report will discuss the importance of capacity building initiatives that focus on prevention as a critical element in an anti-corruption campaign. This is an element that must be included alongside the high profile anti-corruption prosecutions governments may be inclined to conduct. A number of international governmental and nongovernmental organizations produce regular surveys or reports on corruption. The 2008 survey of corruption by Transparency International (TI), an international nongovernmental organization that promotes anti-corruption policies worldwide, ranked twelve OSCE participating States in the bottom half of 180 countries surveyed. The least corrupt countries were assigned the highest ranking. Kazakhstan ranked 145, which was still ahead of the OSCE countries of Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.2 Experts point out that since TI uses a survey, its findings may lag behind reality, reflecting only perceptions based on increased reporting resulting from government enforcement of anti-corruption laws. Others point out that surveys place too much emphasis on bribery although forms of corruption vary greatly from country to country.3 Nonetheless, other barometers, such as evaluations of the Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO), which measures anti-corruption policy reform and capacity through a multi-year expert evaluation process, suggest that some OSCE participating States are only partially implementing standards set by the group. Corruption, which was explicitly highlighted in the Parliamentary Assembly’s concluding document, the Astana Declaration,4 is a multidimensional blight that undermines human, economic, environmental, and security dimension policy goals throughout the OSCE region. Human Dimension Genuine democracy and rule of law cannot exist if the passage, implementation and judgment of the law favor the highest bidder. Moreover, the rule of law requires more than elections and a neutral and impartial judiciary; it requires that individuals receive the unbiased and dispassionate benefits of the law from all public servants. Larry Diamond wrote in the March/April 2008 issue of Foreign Affairs that, “[f]or a country to be a democracy, it must have more than regular, multiparty elections under a civilian constitutional order.” He points out that when regular elections are accompanied by corrupt police and bureaucracies, many people are “citizens only in name” and in their disillusionment gravitate toward authoritarian leadership.5 Observers frequently focus attention on removing graft from courts and elections. However, corruption in other spheres of society, such as among lower level public servants, contributes to the notion of corruption as an acceptable behavior often having the most immediate adverse effect on the average person. Government employees of modest rank are capable of denying basic fundamental freedoms such as equal protection of the law, enjoyment of property, the right of minorities to exercise human rights and freedoms, and the independence of legal practitioners.6 Those who advocate for the victims of corruption, even within the judicial systems, often cannot do so without repercussions. Furthermore, when parliaments become sanctuaries for persons engaged in corruption the protection conveys a message that corruption will be tolerated elsewhere in society. Parliamentary Immunity In a 2006 brief, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) defined parliamentary immunity as “a system in which members of a legislature are granted partial immunity from prosecution from civil and/or criminal offenses.” USAID further states that parliamentary immunity’s purpose is to “reduce the possibility of pressuring a member to change his or her official behavior [with] the threat of prosecution.”7 Unrestrained parliamentary immunity impedes the investigation and prosecution of corruption, makes parliamentary acquiescence and perpetuation of corruption possible, fosters a culture of corruption among other government officials and security officials, and disproportionately affects minority populations. According to Development Alternative Incorporated (DAI), a development consulting company, developing democracies tend to favor the broadest scope of immunity which allows corrupt activities almost with impunity. Although rare, a parliament may vote to lift immunity from one of its members, as was the case in Armenia in 2006 when immunity was removed for a parliament member who allegedly failed to pay taxes and instigated a gun fight.8 While parliamentary immunity can protect the independence of legislatures, frequently it is a shield for illicit activity. A 2007 USAID report, Corruption Assessment: Ukraine, found that “legislators have amassed fortunes through business interests and other means . . . with little transparency or accountability.” Moreover the report found that broad immunity created a powerful incentive to seek public office and introduced “illicit funding” into the political process.9 Even if prosecuting agencies investigate the activities of legislators, the individuals are rarely prosecuted because the parliament will not lift immunity. ArmeniaNow, an NGO publication, found that in the first fifteen years of Armenian independence, immunity was waived in only five instances.10 Although democratic attributes exist ostensibly in most OSCE participating States, features such as elections may ironically serve to conceal the self-serving rule that results from corruption. Parliamentary corruption can lead to a cycle in which the parliament cannot effectively exercise an oversight role because its members have a personal stake in the illicit activity. The Bulgarian parliament’s resistance to closing duty-free vendors along its borders is an example of the controlling power of corruption according to Bulgaria’s Center for the Study of Democracy. Since 1992, duty-free fuel, cigarette and alcohol vendors have operated at Bulgaria’s borders.11 These operations, allegedly tied to organized crime, deprived the state of significant tax revenue and could undercut prices of competitors subject to duties. As a condition of joining the European Union, Bulgaria was required to raise excise duties up to a standard set by the EU. Furthermore, in 2003 the Minister of Finance signed a letter of intent with the International Monetary Fund to close all duty-free shops.12 In response to the increased tax, the illegal trade in duty-free goods increased. In 2004, the Finance Minister extended a license for the shops to continue until 2009 despite international commitments to the contrary. In 2006, the Bulgarian Parliament, instead of closing the shops, passed a law that allowed the shops to shift to the non-EU borders with Serbia, Turkey, and Macedonia.13 Finally, in early 2008, the Parliament passed a law to close the duty-free shops.14 Previously, the Center for the Study of Democracy asserted that “national level illegal proceeds from duty-free trade [had] been deployed to capture the state” and the vendors had used “political corruption to secure perpetual monopoly business positions.”15 Helsinki Commission Chairman Senator Benjamin L. Cardin has raised the issue of unbridled parliamentary immunity on many occasions. In a hearing in June 2006 on Human Rights, Democracy, and Integration in South Central Europe, Senator Cardin made a commitment to push the Parliamentary Assembly to adopt initiatives calling for changes to parliamentary immunity laws. At the July 2006 OSCE Annual Session Cardin authored a resolution on parliamentary immunity, which passed, urging the OSCE participating States to “[p]rovide clear, balanced, transparent, and enforceable procedures for waiving parliamentary immunities in cases of criminal acts or ethical violations.” In 2007, Cardin raised the issue of how parliamentary immunity can serve as cover for corruption in a Helsinki Commission hearing on Energy and Democracy (Helsinki Commission July 2007 Hearing). He has also urged nations such as Ukraine to consider changing their parliamentary immunity laws.16 Petty Corruption Like water flowing downhill, if corruption exists at the higher levels of government and society, it will permeate the performance of public servants at every level. During a 2008 Helsinki Commission hearing on Kazakhstan’s accession to the OSCE Chairmanship, Martha Olcott of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace identified corruption that is “rampant in daily life” in Kazakhstan and present at all levels of government (Helsinki Commission July 2008 Hearing).17 Endemic corruption within the government bureaucracy has an immediate effect in terms of confidence in government and cost to the people of any country. A 2009 report stated that among European Union countries, 17 percent of Greeks and thirty percent of Lithuanians had admitted to paying a bribe to obtain service from a public administrative body.18 In many countries, widespread corruption has led to a level of acceptance. GfK Research, an international marketing and research company, conducted a study in 2006 which reported that 61 percent of Romanians, 58 percent of Bosnians, and 56 percent of Czechs regarded bribes as a normal part of life.19 Frequently, national health care service is provided only to those willing to pay extra to medical personnel. In Romania, $225 paid by Alina Lungu to her doctor was apparently not enough to prevent him from leaving the pregnant women alone for an hour during labor and her baby from being born blind, deaf, and with brain damage due to the umbilical cord being wrapped around him.20 Global Integrity, a nonprofit organization that monitors governance and corruption worldwide, provides an account of a Latvian girl experiencing stomach pain who was allowed to sit in a hospital for several days without pain-killers or treatment until her father paid money to the doctor.21 A survey in Bulgaria showed that the amount of Bulgarians identifying the health sector as the most corrupt in comparison to others such as customs, police, and judiciary increased from 20 percent in 2002 to 39 percent in 2007.22 According to 2007 reporting, Bulgarians experienced corruption in almost every type of health service including referrals, surgery, birth delivery, and emergency care. The problem is very widespread in hospital care.23 Some conclude that health workers take extra payments from patients for services already covered by health insurance and administrators overstate costs in hospital care due to insufficient hospital financing and financing regulations that encourage overspending.24 fficials regularly abuse their authority in the enforcement of traffic laws and in the area of travel. Vladimir Voinovich, a prominent Russian author, points out that to become a public official or policeman you must pay off your boss and that payment is financed through taking bribes.25 Even when officials wish to behave honestly, providing “a stream of payments to patrons” becomes a matter of survival.26 In Uzbekistan, permission from the local government is required to move to another city and according to the 2008 Department of State Report on Human Rights Practices in Uzbekistan, local authorities commonly issue the required documents only in return for a bribe. The report also states that police “arbitrarily detained people to extort bribes” on a regular basis.27 The 2008 report on Human Rights Practices in Azerbaijan noted that police officers regularly impose arbitrary fines on citizens and seek protection money.28 The report on Poland recognized that corruption among police was widespread.29 In many countries, drinking and driving has become commonplace because police can be bribed to look the other way. The Effect of Corruption on Minorities More often than not, police corruption disproportionally affects minority groups. In a Helsinki Commission briefing in 2004, Leonid Raihman of the Open Society Institute described the plight of Roma in Russia who are trapped in a cycle of poverty exacerbated by bribes extracted by the Russian police (Helsinki Commission September 2004 Briefing). Often detained on charges of not possessing proper personal documents or a false accusation of committing a crime, Roma will hire an attorney whose sole function is to negotiate the price of the bribe for their release. According to Raihman, the situation is analogous to that of a hostage whose freedom is being negotiated. This can sometimes lead to families selling their car, life savings or home. He noted that the worst case scenario results in homelessness.30 Regulations that require people to register their official place of residence or obtain an internal passport provide fertile soil for minority exploitation through corruption. According to the 2007 Department of State Report on Human Rights Practices in Russia, “darker skinned persons from the Caucasus or Central Asia” were regularly singled out to see if they possessed an internal passport and had registered with local authorities.31 Typically, if allowed to register, a person must pay a bribe.  Retaliation against Lawyers The legal profession, in addition to an independent judiciary, is an essential part of a functioning democracy. Still, government officials have used retaliatory criminal prosecution and coercive measures to discourage lawyers from representing clients in cases that expose corruption. An example from Russia is that of the attorneys representing Hermitage Capital and its executives.32 Lawyers from four independent law firms representing Hermitage have apparently been subject to unlawful office searches, illegal summonses demanding that they testify as witnesses in the same cases where they are representing clients, and that they falsify testimony against clients. Lawyers who failed to comply were subjected to criminal charges. Several of the lawyers have fled Russia.33 Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer with Firestone Duncan, a firm which represented Hermitage Capital, was arrested in November 2008 in connection with his investigation of government corruption. Magnitsky died in custody this November in a case that highlighted the difficulty of standing up to corruption and poor Russian prison conditions. As the dismissal of the head of the tax agency which Magnitsky was investigating suggests, the death is still reverberating at the Kremlin.34 However, it remains to be seen if long-term actions to protect lawyers exposing corruption will be undertaken. Persons familiar with the Russian legal system say little importance is placed on the attorney-client privilege.35 Allegedly, companies like the 2X2 television network, charged with committing crimes against the state by broadcasting content including the Simpsons and South Park encounter difficulties finding legal representation.36 Government attacks on lawyers and their clients who expose corruption represent a serious threat to the rule of law. When lawyers are intimidated and afraid to represent clients, citizens are defenseless against corruption. A primary reason for this is that courts present many complexities that non-attorneys may find difficult to overcome. The U. S. Supreme Court in Powell v. Alabama explained the challenge faced by a non-attorney representing himself in saying that the non-attorney often cannot recognize if the “indictment is good or bad,” is “unfamiliar with the rules of evidence,” and “lacks the skill and knowledge adequately to prepare his defense.”37 It is imperative that lawyers are protected from government interference and political persecution so that they may effectively represent and protect their clients’ interests. The Economic Dimension Studies suggest corruption retards economic development and generally results in a lower standard of living. The OSCE Best-Practice Guide for a Positive Business and Investment Climate, asserts that “corruption is clearly a major indicator of the health of a business and investment climate” and that the “wealthiest OSCE countries are generally the countries judged to be least corrupt by international observers.”38 Corruption adversely affects economic growth by slowing infrastructure development, increasing costs for businesses, and preventing competitive business outcomes. Moreover, the responsibility of wealthier OSCE participating States cannot be disregarded. Multinational corporations from developed nations, largely through acquiescent behavior, may promote corruption in countries where it is most prevalent. Cost to Business and the Overall Economy Bribes pose a significant cost for businesses in many OSCE countries. The Best Practice Guide notes that in former Soviet countries a higher percentage of business revenue is dedicated to paying bribes than in Western Europe.39 The guide reported that in some countries businesses pay up to four percent of their total costs in bribes.40 Whether through customs, licenses, or permits, the opportunity for graft exists where there are excessive bureaucracies or regulations. The CATO Institute’s report, The Rise of Populist Parties in Central Europe, identifies building permits as “an especially attractive source of extra income.”41 According to a World Bank report, building a general storage two-story warehouse in Moscow requires 54 procedures and 704 days.42 This interaction with numerous agencies and government officials increases the opportunity for bribes. Bribes ultimately distort market outcomes because the most competitive companies are not rewarded for their efforts and therefore some companies choose not to compete at all. For example, government contracting is one area where bribes undermine competition and the public good. J. Welby Leaman, an advisor to the U.S. Treasury Department wrote in the Pacific McGeorge Global Business and Development Law Journal, “public officials’ solicitation of their ‘cut’ impoverish government programs.”43 The CATO Institute report cites the case of Dell Corporation losing a computer contract with the Czech parliament. Dell’s bid reportedly met all technical specifications, was the lowest cost and offered to pay a penalty fee for late delivery. Nonetheless, the contract was awarded to a Czech firm that asked for twice as much as Dell.44 Leaman also notes that if a firm cannot pass on a bribe’s cost to the customer, that firm may choose not to compete, which robs the economy of “additional investment and competition.”45 Diversion of Wealth from Natural Resources While a number of OSCE participating States are fortunate to possess large reserves of oil and natural gas, in many instances the wealth produced by these resources does not benefit the citizens of the states, but only the few who control the resources. The Helsinki Commission held hearings in 2007 spotlighting this misappropriation and betrayal of public trust. Simon Taylor of Global Witness identified the problem’s crux in many countries noting that in Turkmenistan, a country of approximately five million people, “[60] percent of [the] population lives below the poverty line despite two billion dollars in annual gas revenues.”46 Remarkably, in Kazakhstan, the economy grew only 0.3 percent between 2000 and 2005 despite its exportation of 1.2 million barrels of oil a day. Taylor also framed the diversion of profits for personal use as a matter of energy security resulting in unreliable supply and higher prices (Helsinki Commission July 2007 Hearing).47 Following the hearings, then-Commission Chairman Alcee L. Hastings introduced an amendment to the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (H.R. 3221), which became law, making it U.S. policy to support the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and for the U.S. Secretary of State to report annually on U.S. efforts to promote transparency in extractive industry payments.48 The 2009 report notes United States contributions to the EITI Multi-Donor Trust Fund, senior level State Department encouragement to developing economies to join EITI, embassy officer engagement with government officials in developing economies, and U.S. Treasury Department collaboration with development banks.49 In 2008, then-Co-Chairman Cardin sponsored an amendment to the Statement of the July 2008 OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Annual Session that among other things, “encourages governments from oil and gas producing countries to introduce regulations that require all companies operating in their territories to make public information relevant to revenue transparency.” The amendment was approved by the OSCE parliamentarians and adopted as part of the Astana Declaration.50 If the economies of oil and natural gas rich OSCE participating States are to reach their full potential, transparency and accountability must exist between extractive industries and national government. Infrastructure In addition to the price of bribes, a business is disadvantaged to compete in a market with less infrastructure due to corruption. Ukraine exemplifies an OSCE country that stands to gain from economic growth if road projects are funded, efficient and transparent. The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness report on Ukraine notes that the poor state of Ukraine’s roads is hindered by road construction processes that provide many opportunities for corruption.51 This situation impedes not only new road construction, but also repair of existing roads and bridge construction. The State Motor Road Service of Ukraine reported that Ukraine loses the equivalent of one billion U.S. dollars annually due to poor road conditions.52 While new road projects are underway, including a new ring road around Kyiv, current legislation does not allow for a competitive private bidding process, without which the road system will continue to rank 120th out of 134 countries ranked by the World Economic Forum in quality of roads. Ukraine is not alone, Moldova ranked 133rd out of 134 countries.53 Not surprisingly, business leaders in Moldova ranked corruption as the second most problematic business obstacle in that country behind access to financing.54 Fraudulent Appropriation of Private Property A pattern of takeovers of private companies and the government-directed persecution of their executives and lawyers is reportedly becoming the norm in Russia. A prime example was the illegal takeover of companies belonging to the Hermitage Fund, a joint venture between Hermitage Capital Management and HSBC Bank. The takeover was allegedly achieved through brazen abuses of power by law enforcement authorities and interference by government officials with Russian courts. William Browder, the founder of Hermitage, and Jamison Firestone, his attorney, recently met with Helsinki Commission staff to discuss their case. Browder’s visa was revoked in 2005 for what he believes was his work in exposing corruption in state controlled companies with close links to the Kremlin. He then appealed to high-level Russian officials, Browder said, including an impromptu conversation with then-First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev at the Davos annual meeting of the World Economic Forum. After these appeals, Browder alleges he received a phone call from a senior law enforcement officer apparently offering to restore his visa for a price. When this offer was rejected, the Russian Interior Ministry raided the offices of Hermitage and Firestone (see Human Dimension – Retaliation against Lawyers). Corporate seals, charters, and certificates of registration for the Hermitage Fund companies as well as documents belonging to numerous other clients were confiscated during the raids. Following the raids, the corporate documents taken by the Interior Ministry in the office raids were used to wipe HSBC off the share registry of the Hermitage Fund companies. The same documents were used to forge back dated contracts and to file lawsuits against the Hermitage companies alleging significant liabilities. Although Hermitage and HSBC were not aware of these cases, various judges awarded $973 million in damages in legal proceedings that were concluded in a matter of minutes. These same fraudulent liabilities were used by the perpetrators to seek a retroactive tax refund of $230 million in profit taxes that Hermitage had paid to the Russian government in 2006. At the time of the refund, HSBC and Hermitage had already filed six criminal complaints with the heads of Russian law enforcement authorities documenting the involvement of senior government officials in this fraud. Despite these detailed complaints, the fraudulent tax refund was promptly approved and paid to the perpetrators in a matter of days in sharp contrast to the lengthy process normally associated with such a refund. In response to the complaints Russian authorities created an investigative committee staffed by the very officials implicated in the complaints. Moreover, a number of spurious retaliatory criminal cases have been lodged against Browder, his colleagues, and four lawyers from four separate law firms. In the meantime, Mr. Browder and a senior colleague, Ivan Cherkasov, have been placed on the Russian Federal Search List and face the possibility of becoming the subjects of an Interpol Red Notice. Because of the coordinated nature of actions taken by state officials in this scheme together with the official reaction to the Hermitage complaints, Browder suspects high level political interference.55 A country where property can be seized without due process is one where investment is likely to be depressed for fear of arbitrary loss. Regulation of Multinationals While the OSCE participating States of Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union often receive the most criticism for failing to curtail corruption, West European countries also face problems with corruption. One notable case is the recent investigation of defense contractor BAE Systems, a British firm, for alleged bribery in arms sales to Saudi Arabia and separate probes into wrongdoing in arms transactions with Chile, the Czech Republic, Romania, South Africa, Tanzania, and Qatar. The British newspaper, The Telegraph, reported that an alleged six billion pounds (approximately nine billion dollars) were paid to various Saudi officials. Citing a threat to cease intelligence sharing by Saudi Arabia, the British government terminated the investigation.56 In response to the termination of the investigation, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), issued a report criticizing the British government for not considering alternatives to discontinuing the investigation. Moreover, the report criticized the U.K. for not enacting legislation to meet the country’s obligation under the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention.57 While other companies are under investigation, and some like Siemens A.G. have paid record-setting fines, the case of BAE systems stands out because of the record of the U.K. in holding its multinationals to account for overseas bribery. Writing in Foreign Affairs in 2006, Ben Heinemann and Fritz Heimann argue that an area of “emphasis must be the implementation of enforcement and prevention measures by developed nations, where bribery of foreign officials can be more readily exposed and prosecuted.” Unfortunately, their article points out that as of 2006, only France, South Korea, Spain and the United States have brought more than one prosecution.58 In July 2008, the House of Lords upheld the decision of the British government to end the investigation of BAE systems and the government of Prime Minister Gordon Brown has taken no steps to reopen the case. It should be noted that under the pioneer Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which predates the OECD Convention, the United States has steadily increased investigations and prosecutions.59 The FCPA has three major provisions. Its best known provision prohibits U.S. Corporations and individuals from using an instrumentality of interstate commerce to bribe a foreign official, political party or candidate.60The two other primary provisions require corporations to maintain records which accurately reflect transactions and to maintain “internal accounting controls” to provide assurance transactions61 are executed with management’s authorization.62 Observers note that U.S. courts are limiting exceptions to the law and extending its scope while the Department of Justice is joining FCPA charges with charges under other federal laws.63 Reportedly, as of May 2009, the Department of Justice was pursuing 120 investigations of possible FCPA violations.64Recent prosecutions have resulted in favorable court decisions for authorities. In 2004, in a broad interpretation of the law’s application, a Fifth Circuit Court ruling rejected the claim that Congress meant to limit the FCPA only to bribes relating to contracts. The court held that the legislative history implies that the law applies broadly even to payments that indirectly assist in obtaining or retaining business.65 A recent lower court narrowed an exception for lawful payments under the laws of the foreign country. In a situation where a person was relieved of liability after reporting the bribe, the court wrote there “is no immunity from prosecution under the FCPA . . . because a provision in the foreign law “relieves” a person of criminal responsibility.”66 The aggressive enforcement environment and the government’s willingness to consider company-implemented compliance programs in deciding whether to prosecute has a positive consequence of incentivizing other companies to establish such programs. What remains to be seen is to what extent nations with mature economies will hold multinational corporations to account during times of economic hardship. Although only a handful of countries have brought prosecutions, it should be noted that many investigations result in settlements which require fines. In the case of Siemens A.G., the company settled to pay more than $1.6 billion in fines to both German and U.S. authorities.67 If mature economies do not hold multinational corporations accountable, they are in effect promoting corrupt behavior and being duplicitous in criticizing corrupt practices elsewhere. The Security Dimension One account from the book The Natashas: Inside the New Global Sex Trade is the story of Stefa from Moldova who traveled to Romania looking for work. Stefa met a man who introduced himself as an agent marketing positions as maids. Regrettably, nothing could have been further from the truth. This man placed Stefa and other girls in a crowded apartment where they were paraded naked and auctioned like cattle. Natasha was eventually sold and smuggled to Italy where she was sexually assaulted and forced to work as a prostitute.68 Stefa’s story is a common one that is usually facilitated by corruption. Heinemann and Heimann write “one ignores corrupt states that are failed or failing at one’s peril, because they are incubators of terrorism, the narcotics trade, money laundering, human trafficking, and other global crime.”69 In addition to these illicit activities, many recent reports tie corruption to the proliferation of small arms trafficking and sales. Terrorism Many observers believe that terrorists appear to have taken advantage of corruption to conduct attacks. It was reported that one of two female suicide bombers from Chechnya who brought down two Russian passenger aircrafts in August 2004 paid a $34 bribe to board a plane for which she did not have a ticket. Shortly after, flight 1047 and another flight boarded by the second suicide bomber, flight 1303, blew up in mid-air after departing Moscow’s Domodedovo International Airport. Prominent Russian author Vladimir Voinovich, wrote on the Pakistani online newspaper The Daily Times that the terrorists who took control of the Dubrovka theatre in Moscow in 2002 were reportedly stopped fifty times by authorities while traveling to Moscow, but solely for the purpose of soliciting a bribe.70 An article inCrime & Justice International alleged that officials identified 100 Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) police personnel who were complicit in the travel of the Chechen fighters to Moscow.71 Corruption facilitates terrorism by decreasing border security and increasing money laundering. Kimberley Thachuk writes in the SAIS Review that “[c]riminal and terrorist groups depend on unimpeded cross-border movements, and so border guards, customs officers, and immigration personnel are notable targets of corruption.”72 In the U.S. Department of State’s Country Reports on Terrorism 2008, corruption among border guards was identified as a risk in the OSCE region, particularly Albania, Armenia, Kosovo, and Moldova.73 The targeting of border guards by criminal elements extends even to the United States. Recently, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security reestablished its internal affairs unit amid increased corruption investigations. It had been disbanded in 2003. In the spring of 2008, there were 200 open cases against U.S. law enforcement officers on the border. This corruption has involved smuggling of guns, drugs, and people.74 Corruption ultimately undermines the effectiveness of security forces to fight terrorism. Kimberly Thachuk notes that “such corruption spreads, as does an attendant loss of morale and respect for the command structure.”75 This deterioration in professionalism and morale could not come at a worse time. A July 2008 article in Forbes magazine on European crime claimed a 24 percent increase in terrorist attacks from 2006 to 2007.76 Arms Sales  As evidenced by prior testimony before the Helsinki Commission, corruption is a factor in many illicit arms sales worldwide. In June 2003, Roman Kupchinsky, then a Senior Analyst with Crime and Corruption Watch of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, pointed out that sales from former Soviet states frequently involve a marriage of security forces and organized crime (Helsinki Commission June 2003 Hearing).77 This means individuals, not the government, are making the sales. Moreover, although OSCE participating States have agreed through the Forum for Security Cooperation to not issue export licenses for arms without an authenticated end-user certificate, these certificates are often forged. Accordingly, the buyer may not be the actual recipient of the weapons. United Nations arms embargoes notwithstanding, individuals and companies from numerous countries are involved in the manufacture, transit, diversion from legal use, and fraudulent company registration for illicit arms trafficking to countries or non-state actor groups under embargo according to Control Arms, a group of concerned non-governmental organizations. The list of countries included Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.78 These illegal sales, which fuel conflict in the developing world, are estimated to be worth one billion dollars a year according to Rachel Stohl, an analyst at the World Security Institute’s Center for Defense Information. She noted in an article published for the SAIS Review that “[a]rms brokers are able to operate because they can circumvent national arms controls and international embargoes” frequently through corrupt practices.79 Human Trafficking The United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons defines trafficking as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by [involuntary means] for the purpose of exploitation.”80 Victor Malarek, author of The Natashas: Inside the New Global Sex Trade, makes clear that corruption is the lynchpin of the trade in women and girls. Even when countries enact laws and policies to prevent trafficking, corruption threatens to render them ineffective. Mohamed Mattar writes in the Loyola and Los Angeles International and Comparative Law Review that there are indications that exit requirements such as exit visas for trafficked victims are being obtained through bribes.81 Furthermore, Malarek asserts that besides former Soviet states corruption also exists in destination countries in which officials are complicit in allowing the illicit trade. Specifically, the book draws attention to corruption among border guards and police in Greece that enables the trafficking.82 Human trafficking for sexual and labor exploitation has wreaked havoc on Moldova. Moldova is an extremely susceptible source country because of poverty and associated corruption. The breadth of the problem is detailed in an article by William Finnegan in the May 2008 issue of The New Yorker. In large measure due to its economic plight, over 25 percent of Moldova’s workforce has migrated out of the country. A third of all children are missing a parent due to migration. Much of the population views emigration as the only hope to living a better life. Such conditions create a setting abundant with potential victims for traffickers. Finnegan asserts local authorities are generally not helpful unless you are a trafficker. He quotes a local prosecutor as saying “[t]he most powerful pimps in Moldova are all former cops.”83 In 2008 the U.S. Department of State initially ranked Moldova as a Tier 3 country meaning that it had failed to comply with minimum standards and failed to make significant efforts to eliminate human trafficking as outlined in U.S. law.84 In October 2008, the President upgraded Moldova to Tier 2 status because it had reopened investigations into official complicity and drafted a code of conduct for public officials.85 Although less reporting occurs on the breakaway republic of Transnistria than Moldova, the situation there appears alarming. Finnegan discovered that law enforcement officials are uncooperative with NGOs working on behalf of trafficked victims and corruption deters relatives of trafficked victims from contacting the police.86 Finnegan’s article makes clear that destination countries share a significant responsibility for human trafficking.87 Whether through deliberate corruption or turning a blind eye, doctors, police, border guards, accountants, lawyers, travel agencies or hotels in destination countries enable trafficking and exacerbate the problem in source countries. Every Western European country and the United States and Canada are destinations for trafficked persons. In its report, the Department of State claims that more than half of commercial sex workers in France were trafficking victims. The Department also recognizes Turkey as a significant destination country. Trafficked women and girls from Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan find themselves in Turkey. The report notes that many police in Turkey are complicit in trafficking. The United States is not immune, the recent increase in corruption investigations against Customs and Border Protection officers are in part for taking bribes to allow the passage of human beings.88 OSCE Field Missions and Prevention Efforts89 While it is necessary to sound the alarm and call attention to corruption’s presence across the three OSCE dimensions, it is equally necessary to assess OSCE and non-OSCE efforts in the region to counter corruption. The last two decades have seen a consensus at the international level concerning norms and necessary anti-corruption action at the national level. This consensus is manifested in the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). Despite international achievements, some would say that national level progress in decreasing corruption is at a standstill or being rolled back in some OSCE participating States. Broadly conceived, implementation is stalling. To understand why it is helpful to think of implementation occurring in two phases. The first phase consists of the passing of national laws implementing international commitments. The second phase, which is just as important, consists of institutions with independent and trained persons complying with and impartially executing the anti-corruption laws. This second phase has proven most problematic for many countries because the actions required to build capacity require a long term commitment and the dedication of resources and do not often attract media attention. Additionally, the notion that the nature of corruption differs from country to country should be embraced.90 The Office of the Coordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities (OCEEA) leads OSCE efforts in combating corruption. Through field missions, handbooks, and coordination with other international organizations, the OCEEA has promoted implementation of international anti-corruption agreements, efficient management of public resources and implementation of the Arhus Convention allowing greater access to information on the environment. Work to implement the UNCAC has paid off, with only thirteen OSCE participating States not having ratified the convention; and of those thirteen, only six have not yet signed the convention. However, this underscores the reality that ratification does not equate to true implementation of and compliance with the convention. This report cites corrupt activities within many OSCE participating States that have ratified the convention. With respect to this corrupt activity, OSCE field missions can be effective institutions for promoting substantive compliance with the convention. An official with one international organization stressed that the hard part in decreasing corruption is the taking of preventative measures. OSCE field missions routinely undertake and promote some of these measures which include identifying and resolving conflicts, training government officials, and engaging civil society. OSCE field missions commonly provide anti-corruption assistance to local governments. However, in a manner befitting the nature of the problem, field missions conduct distinctive work appropriate to their assigned country. For example, in Georgia the mission assisted, before being closed down this year, in establishing an Inspector General’s office to review the finances of government ministries. Advocacy and legal advice centers are operated by the mission in Azerbaijan to provide legal advice on complaints and to educate the public and government authorities. In 2008, the centers in Azerbaijan provided assistance in response to 2,500 complaints. Additionally, mobile workshops reached 2,360 people with awareness campaigns and frequently provided on the spot legal advice.91 Similar centers provide aid in Armenia. The use of existing advocacy and legal advice centers is not high among people in Kazakhstan. This lower use may exemplify the benefit of an approach that carefully addresses the needs of people and nature of corruption in a given country. Centers that target audiences other than the general public have been successful. In Tajikistan, Resource Centers for Small and Agribusiness and Centers for Promotion of Cross-Border Trade reportedly draw many patrons. It has also been reported that due to these centers, businesspeople have resisted illegal government inspections. Good Governance Centers in Georgia that assisted municipalities received high marks, and in addition to the government, were sometimes used by the general public. Prevention efforts directed at government employees at all levels are essential. Second round GRECO evaluation reports released in 2007 and 2008 identified a number of countries - some with field missions, such as Azerbaijan, and others without, such as Greece - that had not taken appropriate steps to protect government employees who are whistleblowers. In the case of Greece, sufficient protections for career advancement were not in place and employees typically could only report corruption to their immediate supervisor.92 Because the follow-on Addendum to the Compliance Reports are not public, it is unclear if adequate protections and measures to assist reporting has improved. Education coupled with preventative programs that build upon training are initiatives that field missions are well suited to provide through the various types of centers. The OSCE mission in Ukraine has initiated a public-private dialogue that addresses accountability in local government. Fostering a dialogue between government, private sector, and civil society is important because in many countries these groups mistrust one another. In Georgia, the OSCE is supporting the efforts of Transparency International to ensure that a broad range of voices from civil society and the business community are heard by the Task Force on Fighting Corruption as it develops a new Anti-Corruption Strategy and Action Plan. These initiatives recognize that not only will implementation vary from country to country, but that implementation measures will differ at different levels of government and require input from all facets of society. Field missions are conducting varying efforts to promote a similar dialogue between government and civil society in Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan. Recent meetings between Helsinki Commission staff and members of civil society and officials from international organizations suggest it may be misguided to keep a primary focus on national level authorities prosecuting alleged corrupt acts. One NGO member recently remarked that there are enough national level laws and that what is needed is impartial enforcement and an unbiased judiciary. In Curbing Corruption: Toward a Model for Building National Integrity, Daniel Kaufmann referred to this as the “Tackling-the-symptom bias” which “instead of identifying the root cause, involves thinking that the solution is to catch and jail a target number of criminals . . . or to pass another anti-corruption law in the country.”93 Kaufmann describes what may be the best case scenario. The worst case scenario expressed by both members of the NGO community and international organizations to the Helsinki Commission is that prosecution is used to target political opposition and journalists. Amplifying the problem are enforcement agencies that may lack the capacity to conduct an even-handed investigation. An official from Bosnia-Herzegovnia recently said that the country “has adopted three strategic plans and ratified numerous international conventions on corruption,” but there is no implementation and the commitments go unmet.94 Public GRECO compliance reports from its second round of evaluations conclude that Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Romania have only partially implemented measures to fully train investigators, prosecutors and judges to handle corruption cases.95Again, because the follow-on addendum to the reports are not public it is unclear if training has improved in these participating States. In 2005, the President of Kyrgyzstan signed a decree establishing the National Agency of the Kyrgyz Republic for Preventing Corruption. Reportedly, in that first year, the agency opted not to put into practice a number of recommendations of an outside expert sponsored by an international organization to provide support. Later, the agency disagreed with international organizations on the use of funds offered by those organizations. Reportedly, $300,000 were made available for capacity building, but the leadership of the agency was adamant that the money be used to increase salaries. Today the agency has seven computers for 49 staff and no Internet access, Helsinki Commission staff was told. Concerns also exist that a strong parliamentary immunity is a necessity when many governments are focused on prosecution of political opponents. The NGO member added that this prosecution is often targeted at politicians in a minority party highlighting the continued need for parliamentary immunity laws even if they allow some offenders and wrongdoers to evade prosecution. This view of targeted prosecutions has been echoed by workers with international organizations that have communicated with the Helsinki Commission on this subject. With the above in mind, it should be noted that the resolution authored by Chairman Cardin, and adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly in 2006, incorporates preventative measures by calling for the publishing of “rigorous standards of ethics and official conduct” and establishing “efficient mechanisms for public disclosure of financial information and potential conflicts of interest.”96 The goals set out in that resolution constitute a starting point that must be reinforced with other measures that over time build a common ethos of public integrity and service throughout government. It should also be noted that the OSCE has worked in tandem with the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC) in participating States such as Kyrgyzstan to train parliamentarians in roles of oversight and budget control. Finally, Chairman Cardin’s resolution recommending that the Office of the Coordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities (OCEEA) develop best practices for parliamentarians to use echoed the 2005 OSCE PA’s Washington Declaration. That document praised the work of GOPAC and recommended that the OSCE “with other parliamentary associations and [GOPAC develop] a programme of peer support, education and anti-corruption initiatives.”97 The OSCE has also worked with GOPAC in running workshops and supporting local GOPAC chapters particularly in Southeast Europe. This is an effort that should receive continued support. The importance of capacity building within parliaments cannot be forgotten when confronting corruption. Conclusion: The Related Nature of Corruption Across the OSCE Dimensions No account of corruption in any dimension can be viewed in isolation. If corruption thwarts a competitive business environment or is endemic among public servants then the conditions are set for an underworld of crime to flourish. Once seedlings of graft take root, they grow rapidly. Soon the institutions of democracy that require the nutrients of transparency and accountability are choked by what people may have once considered the harmless taking of small amounts of money or property. In the aggregate, petty corruption emboldens grand corruption and vice versa. Eventually, a government cannot perform the basic tasks expected of it. It cannot defend individual rights enshrined in national law, protect the engagement of commerce, or provide for the security of its people. In many instances, elites restrict political access and limit economic competition. This is what Larry Diamond refers to as a “predatory state.” Moreover, Diamond asserts when people no longer advance “through productive activity and honest risk taking” but only through operating outside the law, the predatory state becomes a “predatory society.”98 While observers may disagree whether some OSCE participating States have reached such an extreme point, all states are always somewhere on the continuum between a functional electoral democracy and a predatory society. To combat corruption the OSCE, through existing field mission mandates, should continue to focus adequate attention to building capacity to identify and address corruption and promotion of a culture of integrity and anti-corruption among civil servants and civil society. All participating States should implement commitments under international treaties such as the UNCAC. However, ratifying the UNCAC and passing national laws targeting corruption is not enough. While prosecutions serve a deterrence function, they must be balanced by relatively low profile well-planned prevention programs that are sustained by sufficient resources. In order to identify and address the circumstances that foster corruption, collaboration must increase between governments, NGOs, corporations and small and medium size enterprises to develop specific strategies. OSCE countries should consider supporting neighbors by building upon the model of field missions. Corruption is a problem not likely to end soon, but is an area where progress may be made if small successes are reinforced with adequate resources. Work is needed to live up to the ideals recorded in the Parliamentary Assembly’s Astana Declaration and the earlier Istanbul Declaration of the 1999 OSCE Summit, in which OSCE participating States recognized corruption as a threat to “shared values” and pledged “to strengthen their efforts to combat corruption and the conditions that foster it.” The OSCE countries need to muster the political will, individually and collectively, to conduct a smarter fight against corruption – a threat to security, property, and fundamental freedoms throughout the expansive OSCE region. Footnotes 1 Joanna Lillis, “Kazakhstan: Nazarbayev Hints that Democratization will Take Back Seat on OSCE Agenda,” Eurasia Insight, July 9, 2008,http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/insight/articles/eav070908.shtml (accessed June 1, 2009) 2 2008 Corruption Perceptions Index: Persistently high corruption in low-income countries amounts to an “ongoing humanitarian disaster” (Berlin: Transparency International, 2008). 3 Michael Johnston, Syndromes of Corruption: Wealth, Power, and Democracy (New York: Cambridge, 2005), 19-21. 4 OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, Astana Declaration of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and Resolutions Adopted at the Seventeenth Annual Session, 2008, 7, 28, and 45. 5 Larry Diamond, “The Democratic Rollback: The Resurgence of the Predatory State,” Foreign Affairs87, no. 2 (2008): 39, and 42-44. 6 The participating States committed to support and advance these rights and freedoms, in addition to others, in the 1990 Copenhagen Document. “Document of the Copenhagen Meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension of the CSCE,” June 29, 1990. 7 United States Agency for International Development, Parliamentary Immunity Brief: A Summary of Case Studies of Armenia, Ukraine and Guatemala, August 2006, 1-2. 8 Carmen Lane, Parliamentary Immunity and Democracy Development (Washington D.C.: DAI, 2007) 1-3. 9 United States Agency for International Development, Corruption Assessment Ukraine, Final Report February, 2006, 49 10 Gayane Mkrtchyan, “Not Above the Law?: Parliament Lifts Immunity, MP Hakobyan Must Face Prosecution,” ArmeniaNow.com, October 13, 2006, http://www.armenianow.com/?action=viewArticle&AID=1768 11 Center for the Study of Democracy, Effective Policies targeting the Corruption – Organized crime Nexus in Bulgaria: Closing Down Duty-Free Outlets, Brief, December 2007, 3. 12 Ibid., 5. 13 Ibid., 3. 14 Elena Koinova, “Changes to Duty-Free Trade Act passed in Parliament,” The Sofia Echo, March 28, 2008, http://sofiaecho.com/2008/03/21/659426_changes-to-duty-free-trade-act-passed-in-parliament 15 Center for the Study of Democracy, Effective Policies targeting the Corruption, 3. 16 Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, Energy and Democracy: Oil and Water?, 108th Cong., 2nd sess., 2007 (Prepared statement of Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, not unofficial transcript), https://www.csce.gov/international-impact/events/energy-and-democracy-oil-and-water (accessed June 22, 2009) 17 Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, Promises to Keep: Kazakhstan’s 2010 OSCE Chairmanship, 110th Cong., 2nd sess., 2008, (Prepared statement of Martha Olcott not unofficial transcript), https://www.csce.gov/international-impact/events/promises-keep-kazakhstan-s-2010-osce-chairmanship (accessed June 8, 2009). 18 Transparency International, 2009 Global Corruption Barometer Report, (Berlin: May, 2007) 32. 19 GfK Research, Corruption Climate in Europe, August 9, 2006, available athttp://www.gfk.hr/press1_en/corruption2.htm (accessed June 17, 2009). 20 Dan Bilefsky, “Medical Care in Romania Comes at an Extra Cost,” The New York Times, March 9, 2009. 21 Global Integrity, Global Integrity Scorecard: Latvia, 2007, 1-2. 22 Konstantin Pashev, Center for the Study of Democracy, Corruption in the Healthcare Sector in Bulgaria (Sofia, Bulgaria: 2007) 17. 23 Ibid, 17. 24 Ibid, 35. 25 Vladimir Voinovich, “Drunk on Corruption,” Daily Times, January 3, 2003,http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=story_3-1-2003_pg3_4 (accessed June 18, 2009). 26 Michael Johnston, “Poverty and Corruption,” Forbes, January 22, 2009. 27 U.S. Department of State, 2008 Human Rights Report: Uzbekistan, February 25, 2009,http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2008/sca/119143.htm. 28 U.S. Department of State, 2008 Human Rights Report: Azerbaijan, February 25, 2009,http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2008/eur/119068.htm. 29 U.S. Department of State, 2008 Human Rights Report: Poland, February 25, 2009,http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2008/eur/119098.htm. 30 Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, The Romani Minority in Russia, 108th Cong., 2nd sess., 2004, 8 (Prepared statement of Leonid Raihman found in official transcript). 31 U.S. Department of State, 2007 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Russia, March 11, 2008, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2007/100581.htm. 32 The account of how Hermitage Capital was seized corruptly through a series of non-transparent proceedings is told in the section addressing the Economic Dimension. 33 Jamison Firestone, conversation with Helsinki Commission staff, April 14, 2009. 34 Carl Mortished, “Kremlin sacking linked to Sergei Magnitsky case,” TimesOnline, December 16, 2009,http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/banking_and_finance/article6957931.ece (accessed December 22, 2009). 35 Lynda Edwards, “Russia Claws at the Rule of Law,” ABA Journal 95 (2009): 41. 36 Ibid., 42. 37 Powell v. Alabama, 287 U.S. 45, 69 (1932). 38 The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Best-Practice Guide for a Positive Business and Investment Climate, 2006, 30. 39 Ibid. 40 OSCE, Best-Practice Guide 30-31. 41 Marian L. Tupy, CATO Institute, The Rise of Populist Parties in Central Europe: Big Government, Corruption, and the Threat to Liberalism, November 8, 2006, 14. 42 The World Bank, Doing Business 2009: Country Profile for Russian Federation, 2008, 12. 43 J. Welby Leaman, “It’s Not Always Nice to Play Nice: Collusion, Competition, and Development,”Pacific McGeorge Global Business and Development Law Journal 20, no. 2 (2007): 291. 44 Tupy, Rise of Populist Parties, 9. 45 Leaman, “It’s Not Always Nice to Play Nice,” 291. 46 CSCE, Energy and Democracy, 108th Cong., 2nd sess., 2007 (Prepared statement of Simon Taylor not unofficial transcript) (accessed June 12, 2009). 47 Ibid.  48 Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, Public Law 110-140, 110th Cong., 1st sess. (December 19, 2007). 49 .S. Department of State, Report on Progress Made in Promoting Transparency in Extractive Industries Resource Payments, June 24, 2009. On file with United States House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, 50 Parliamentary Assembly, Astana Declaration, 28. 51 Margareta Drzeniek Hanouz and Thierry Geiger, eds., World Economic Forum, The Ukraine Competitiveness Report: Towards Sustained Growth and Prosperity, 2008, 56. 52 Hanouz and Geiger, eds., The Ukraine Competitiveness Report, 56. 53 Michael Porter and Klaus Schwab eds., World Economic Forum, The Global Competitiveness Report 2008-2009, 385. 54 Ibid., 242. 55 William Browder, conversation with Helsinki Commission staff, April 14, 2009. William Browder did testify at a Helsinki Commission hearing just as this report was being completed in June 2009. During his testimony he provided a website (http://www.compromat.ru/main/vragi/raderykak.htm) that provided a price list for a range of activities attacking a corporate entity in Russia from erasing a company’s registration data to a complete takeover. 56 Jon Swaine, “BAE Systems executive ‘questioned over alleged bribery,’” The Telegraph, October 23, 2008, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/epic/badot/3245563/BAE-Systems-executive-questioned-over-alleged-European-bribery.html (accessed June 15, 2009). 57 Organizations for Economic Co-operating and Development, United Kingdom: Report on the Application of the Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions and the 1997 Recommendation on Combating Bribery in International business Transactions, October 17 2008, 4. 58 Ben W. Heineman, Jr., and Fritz Heimann, “The Long War Against Corruption,” Foreign Affairs 85, no. 3 (May/June 2006), 77, 82. 59 Control Risks, Corruption, Compliance and Change: Responding to Greater Scrutiny in Challenging Times (London: 2009) 3. 60 15 U.S.C. §§ 78dd-1. 61 15 U.S.C. § 78m(b)(2)(A). 62 15 U.S.C. § 78m(b)(2)(B). 63 Gail P. Granoff and Brian Mich, 2008 FCPA Review, January 28, 2009 (Presentation at International Quality & Productivity Center FCPA Conference). 64 Dionne Searcey, “U.S. Cracks Down on Corporate Bribes,” The Wall Street Journal, May 26, 2009. 65 United States v. Kay, 359 F.3d 738, 755 (5th Cir. 2004). 66 United States v. Kozeny, 582 F. Supp 2d 535, 539 (S.D.N.Y 2008). 67 Cary O’Reilly and Karin Matussek, “Siemens to Pay $1.6 Billion to Settle Bribery Cases,” The Washington Post, December 16, 2008. 68 Victor Malarek, The Natashas: Inside the New Global Sex Trade (New York: Arcade Publishing, 2003), 112-113. 69 Heineman and Heimann, “The Long War,” 79. 70 Voinovich, “Drunk on Corruption”. 71 Graham H. Turbiville, Jr., “Corruption, Crime and Murder Undermine Counter-terrorist Efforts,”Crime & Justice International 21, no. 87 (July/August 2005), 8. 72 Kimberly Thachuk, “Corruption and International Security,” SAIS Review XXV, no. 1 (Winter-Spring 2005), 147. 73 U.S. Department of State Country Reports on Terrorism 2008, Europe and Eurasia Overview, April 2009. 74 Randal Archibold and Andrew Becker, “Border Agents, Lured by the Other Side,” The New York Times, May 27, 2008. 75 Thachuk, “Corruption,” 147. 76 Parmy Olson, “Europe’s Crime Capitals,” Forbes, July 15, 2008,http://www.forbes.com/2008/07/15/europe-capitals-crime-forbeslife-cx_po_0715crime.html 77 Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, Arming Rogue Regimes: The Role of OSCE Participating States, 108th Cong., 1st sess., 2003, 40 (Prepared statement of Roman Kupchinsky found in official transcript). 78 Control Arms, UN Arms Embargoes: An Overview of the Last Ten Years, Briefing Note, March 16, 2006, 2. 79 Rachel Stohl, “Fighting the Illicit Trafficking of Small Arms,” SAIS Review (Winter-Spring 2005), 64. 80 “Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime,” Article 3 (a), United Nations, (2000). 81 Mohamed Y. Mattar, “State Responsibilities in Combating Trafficking in Persons in Central Asia,”Loyola and Los Angeles International and Comparative Law Review 27 (Spring 2005), 161 (see footnote 76). 82 Malarek, The Natashas, 140-141. 83 William Finnegan, “The Counter Traffickers: Rescuing Victims of the Global Sex Trade,” The New Yorker, 2, 6, 7-8, http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/05/05/080505fa_fact_finnegan (accessed June 8, 2009). 84 U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2008, 184. 85 U.S. Department of State Senior Coordinator for Public Outreach, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, email to author, December 10, 2008; Embassy of the United States, Moldova, “Moldova Moved up to Tier 2 in Trafficking in Persons,” press release, October 10, 2008,http://moldova.usembassy.gov/pr102908.html. 86 Finnegan, “The Counter Traffickers,” 10. 87 Ibid., 9, 11. 88 Rick Jervis, “Arrests of Border Agents on The Rise,” USA Today, April 23, 2009. 89 This section of report is based upon meetings and discussions with a variety of international governmental organizations and nongovernmental organizations who to the extent possible are not identified. Any opinions expressed or conclusions drawn do not necessarily reflect the official views of any of these organizations. 90 Johnson, Syndromes of Corruption, 186. 91 Office of the Co-ordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities, March 25, 2009, email to author providing numbers of complaints and people contacted. 92 Group of States against Corruption, Second Evaluation Round: Compliance Report on Greece, February 15, 2008, 9. 93 Daniel Kaufmann, “Anticorruption Strategies: Starting Afresh? Unconventional Lessons from Comparative Analysis,” in Curbing Corruption: Towards a Model for Building National Integrity, ed. Rick Stapenhurst and Sahr J. Kpundeh (Washington, D.C.: World Bank Publications, 1999), 37. 94 Miroslav Ajder, “Corruption Claims Hold Back Bosnia: Allegations of Fraud in Government Contracts and Privatization are Pitting the Government Against Monitors and Scaring off Foreign Investors,” BusinessWeek, March 17, 2009. 95 These compliance reports may be found at the GRECO web page,http://www.coe.int/t/dghl/monitoring/greco/evaluations/round2/reports(round2)_en.asp (accessed June 15, 2009). 96 Resolution on Limiting Immunity for Parliamentarians in order to Strengthen Good Governance, Public Integrity and Rule of Law in the OSCE Region, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, 15th sess., Brussels Declaration (July 7, 2006). 97 OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, Washington, DC Declaration of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and Resolutions Adopted at the Fourteenth Annual Session, 2005, 35. 98 Diamond, “The Democratic Rollback,” 43. 

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