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Migration, Refugees, and Displaced Persons

The Commission engages directly with governments, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, and the media, and has held hearings and other events on refugees and migration, including a 2015 hearing on the refugee crisis in Europe, a 2013 hearing on Syrian refugees fleeing to the OSCE region, and a 1993 hearing on migrant farmworkers in the United States that preceded the 1994 CSCE Human Dimension Seminar on Migrant Workers.

Commission efforts have also focused on combating prejudice and bias-motivated crimes against refugees and migrants and ensuring that OSCE participating States keep their OSCE commitments regarding these populations. The Commission has consistently supported a strong role for the OSCE’s Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) in assisting participating States in this regard.

Staff Contacts: Nathaniel Hurd, senior policy advisor; Mischa Thompson, senior policy advisor

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  • Developments in the Chechen Conflict

    Since renewal of the Chechen war in late 1999, the conflict has been characterized by brutality and violations of human rights on both sides, especially on the part of the Russian military with its greater firepower. Hundreds of Chechens, especially males of military age, have been killed or have disappeared as a result of Russian military “sweeps.” An estimated 150,000 – 200,000 civilians have been forced to relocate to neighboring refugee camps. Moscow contends that the war in Chechnya is an integral part of the war against international terrorism, and the U.S. Government has confirmed links between some insurgents in Chechnya and “various terrorist organizations and mujahidin.” The U.S. Government has called upon Chechnya’s leadership to “immediately and unconditionally cut all contacts with international terrorist groups,” while calling for “accountability for human rights violations on all sides” and a political solution to the conflict.

  • Cyprus Talks Focus of Commission Briefing

    By Chadwick R. Gore CSCE Staff Advisor The Helsinki Commission held a briefing on March 26 regarding possible outcomes of ongoing direct talks between Republic of Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash. The two leaders have been central figures in developments on the divided island nation for over a quarter century. Panelist Ian Lesser said the time is ripe for the two sides to settle this conflict. Lesser, a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation, attributed the resumption of talks last December to the force of European Union membership. “The issue about European membership for Cyprus, but also in the broader sense European prospects for Turkey and the Europeanization of Greek policy over the last decade…has proved a key context for this [round of talks] to move forward,” Lesser stated. Panelist Doug Bandow, Senior Fellow at the CATO Institute, agreed with Lesser and laid out another catalyst for the talks. “I think what spurs the [talks] today certainly is the issue of the EU and whether or not Cyprus goes in; and in many ways, the Turkish threat, which they haven’t repeated recently but nevertheless hangs over the proceedings, of whether or not to annex the section of the island which the troops occupy,” Bandow said. Central issues which Clerides and Denktash will have to resolve during these talks come from both sides of the Green Line, the dividing line agreed to under the terms of the current United Nations-monitored cease fire. Turkish Cypriots are concerned for their safety on an island that is overwhelmingly Greek. The status of Turkish immigrants under a new form of government is an issue in which both sides take interest. According to Bandow, the citizens of the Republic of Cyprus, mainly of Greek ethnicity, are primarily concerned with “reimbursement for lost property, the right to travel throughout the island, the ability to go back to historic homelands, the notion of having a unified island again; where, in fact, Cyprus exists as a nation in which people are free within that island.” If indeed an agreement is reached between the two parties, the positive outcomes would extend beyond the island’s borders. Colonel Stephen R. Norton (U.S. Army, Ret.), a senior Policy Advisor at the Western Policy Center, expounded on the benefits of a solution. “First, it reduces the potential for conflict in the region. It strengthens NATO’s southern flank at a time when the alliance is deeply engaged in Balkan peacekeeping and the war on terrorism. It improves bilateral relations between NATO allies, Greece and Turkey. It enhances Turkey’s reputation with the European community and helps with its EU accession process – a very important item. It decreases long standing anti-Americanism in Greece. And, finally, it serves as an example where you have Christian and Muslim populations working out their problems together.” Asked how the United States, specifically, can deter another conflict on Cyprus, panelist Philip H. Gordon of the Brookings Institute and the Center on the United States and France, answered, “…every single party involved in this – Turkish Cypriots, Greek Cypriots, Greece, Turkey, EU and us – are worse off if this is not resolved by December and there’s a crisis.” If the solution is to be long lasting, the Cypriots must reach it themselves, Bandow concluded. Despite positive remarks about the situation, none of the four panelists were overly optimistic about the outcome of the current round of talks. Hesitant to set a deadline for an agreement, Gordon editorialized his thoughts, saying, “I think we need to be absolutely prepared for breakdowns in the talks, continued haggling between the two sides, literally up to the last minute, which is probably the EU’s Copenhagen Summit in December.” The Helsinki Commission also held a briefing on Tuesday, December 4, 2001 to explore the renewal of talks on Cyprus between Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash. The briefing featured United States Special Coordinator for Cyprus Ambassador Thomas G. Weston.

  • Amendment on Yugoslavia War Criminals

    Mr. Chairman, I make a point of order that the language on page 107, lines 11 through 17, is not in order because it violates clause 2 of rule XXI of the House rules which prohibits legislation on an appropriations bill. The CHAIRMAN. Does the gentleman from Arizona (Mr. KOLBE) wish to be heard on the point of order? Mr. KOLBE. No, Mr. Chairman. The CHAIRMAN. The Chair finds that this provision directly amends existing law. The provision therefore constitutes legislation in violation of clause 2 of rule XXI. The point of order is sustained, and section 577 is stricken from the bill. The Clerk will read. The Clerk read as follows: WAR CRIMINALS SEC. 578. (a) None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available pursuant to this Act may be made available for assistance, with the exception of humanitarian assistance and assistance for democratization, to any country, entity or municipality whose competent authorities have failed, as determined by the Secretary of State, to take necessary and significant steps to implement its international legal obligations to apprehend and transfer to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (the ``Tribunal'') all persons in their territory who have been publicly indicted by the Tribunal. (b) The provisions of subsection (a) shall apply unless the Secretary of State determines and reports to the appropriate committees of the Congress that the competent authorities of such country, entity, or municipality are-- (1) cooperating with the Tribunal, including access for investigators, the provision of documents, and the surrender and transfer of publicly indicted indictees or assistance in their apprehension; and (2) taking steps that are consistent with the Dayton Accords. (c) The Secretary of State may waive the application of subsection (a) with respect to a country, entity, or municipality upon a written determination to the Committees on Appropriations of the House of Representatives and the Senate that provision of assistance that would otherwise be prohibited by that subsection is in the national interest of the United States. AMENDMENT NO. 8 OFFERED BY MR. SMITH OF NEW JERSEY Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment on behalf of the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. CARDIN) and myself. The CHAIRMAN. The Clerk will designate the amendment. The text of the amendment is as follows: Amendment No. 8 offered by Mr. SMITH of New Jersey: Page 108, after line 20, insert the following: SENSE OF THE CONGRESS RELATING TO COOPERATION WITH THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL TRIBUNAL FOR THE FORMER YUGOSLAVIA SEC. 579. (a) FINDINGS.--The Congress finds as follows: (1) All member states of the United Nations have the legal obligation to cooperate fully with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. (2) All parties to the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina have the legal obligation to cooperate fully with the Tribunal in pending cases and investigations. (3) The United States Congress continues to insist, as a condition for the receipt of foreign assistance, that all governments in the region cooperate fully with the Tribunal in pending cases and investigations. (4) The United States Congress strongly supports the efforts of the Tribunal to bring those responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide in the former Yugoslavia to justice. (5) Those authorities in Serbia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia responsible for the transfer of Slobodan Milosevic to the Tribunal at The Hague are congratulated. (6) The governments of Croatia and Bosnia are congratulated for their cooperation with the Tribunal, particularly regarding the transfer of indictees to the Tribunal. (7) At least 30 persons who have been indicted by the Tribunal remain at large, especially in the Republika Srpska entity of Bosnia-Herzegovina, including but not limited to Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. (8) The Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe recently adopted a resolution that emphasizes the importance of cooperation by member states with the Tribunal. (b) SENSE OF CONGRESS.--It is the sense of Congress that: (1) All governments, entities, and municipalities in the region, including but not limited to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia , Serbia, and the Republika Srpska entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, are strongly encouraged to cooperate fully and unreservedly with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in pending cases and investigations. (2) All governments, entities, and municipalities in the region should cooperate fully and unreservedly with the Tribunal, including (but not limited to) through-- (A) the immediate arrest, surrender, and transfer of all persons who have been indicted by the Tribunal but remain at large in the territory which they control; and (B) full and direct access to Tribunal investigators to requested documents, archives, witnesses, mass grave sites, and any officials where necessary for the investigation and prosecution of crimes under the Tribunal's jurisdiction. The CHAIRMAN. Pursuant to the order of the House today, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. SMITH) and a Member opposed each will control 10 minutes. Mr. KOLBE. Mr. Chairman, I claim the time in opposition, and I reserve a point of order against this amendment. The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from Arizona (Mr. KOLBE) reserves a point of order, and will be recognized on the amendment. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. SMITH) for 10 minutes. Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume. This amendment, Mr. Chairman, underscores our resolve to bring to justice those responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Sometimes some people wonder if it is really worth introducing this complex and complicating factor called justice into U.S. policy toward the region. Justice may be nice, they argue, but regional stability is what is really needed in the Balkans. Insisting on the prosecution of war crimes, they continue, certainly does not help in this regard, and if our European allies are not pushing this, why should we? Mr. Chairman, in response, I ask that my colleagues make sure that time has not faded the horrific images of the Yugoslav conflict, images of prisoners interred in camps like Omarska, the mass graves of Vukovar, Srebrenica, and in recent weeks those uncovered in Serbia itself. I would just say parenthetically on a trip the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. WOLF) and I made in the early months of the war against Croatia, we went to Osijek and Vukovar. We were there when it was surrounded by Serbian military snipers. There were MiGs flying overhead. We met with people inside of wine cellars who would not come out because every day snipers were just picking off innocent civilians, killing these people as they walked down the street, as they leveled one block after another. The people who were in Vukovar Hospital, soon after we left, just months after we left when that city under siege was overtaken, were literally taken out and killed in a terrible, a horrible way, just shot and put into a mass grave. So I would respectfully submit that we must remember those frightened, innocent peasants who we all saw the images of day in and day out on CNN fleeing over mountain passes with whatever they could carry. There were stories of snipers in Vukovar, in Sarajevo, in Mostar, in other cities, shooting anybody that crossed the street; or the militants lobbing shells at schools or kids who wrongfully hoped it would be safe enough to do a little sleigh riding in their hilly neighborhoods. It is virtually impossible for us, I would submit, to comprehend what it is like for these people who did nothing wrong, who posed no threat to anyone, to have encountered such hostility and such hatred. We must never forget nor should we ever stop seeking justice for those who fled, for those who were tortured, for those who were raped repeatedly. We had hearings, Mr. Chairman. The gentleman might recall in the Helsinki Commissions we brought in rape victims who, as a matter of state policy, the Serbian government and the Bosnian Serbs were trying to make an example of these women to break the back of those people in Serbia, in Bosnia. It was horrible to see the blank faces and the vacant look in their eyes, the look of pain, as they came forward to tell of their stories. We must put ourselves in their shoes as we consider this amendment. We must stand there on the edge of that ditch and try to ponder the notion that these drunken people had their rifles pointed at their backs, and those sons and daughters and fathers and everyone else were killed. There needs to be an accounting. We must remember that these culprits of these horrific crimes are today living their lives at large, mostly in the Republic of Srpska, and in Serbia as well. As a matter of fact, a history of ancient hatreds is really a myth. They like to throw that out, that somehow this was just all of these animosities, generation after generation. Nothing was inevitable. This did not have to happen. Those responsible for this carnage need to be held to account, people like Karadzic, Mladic, and some 30 others who have already been indicted by the tribunal who are walking the streets free today. They need to be held to account. Mr. Chairman, I offer this amendment. I know the chairman may raise a point of order. It does express our collective concerns as Democrats, Republicans, and Independents in favor of going forward and being as aggressive and attentive as we can be. As I said at the outset, time should not fade these memories. As we learned from the Holocaust and the atrocities of Nazis, we hunt down until we bring to justice those who have committed these horrible acts. Mrs. LOWEY. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word. As the gentleman knows, we worked together to craft appropriate language regarding aid to Yugoslavia and its cooperation with the War Crimes Tribunal. The bill carries similar language to the fiscal year 2001 bill. It allows assistance to Serbia until March 30, 2002, at which time the Secretary of State must certify that Serbia is cooperating with the Tribunal, taking steps consistent with the Dayton Accords to limit financial cooperation with the Republic of Srpska, and is respecting minority rights. The bill also carries separate language requiring that all countries cooperate with the international criminal tribunal or face penalties. We arrived at this language through negotiations with the chairman, and it enjoys the support of most members of the committee. I understand and agree with the concerns addressed in the gentleman's amendment, and I am happy that the language included reflects many of those concerns. I am pleased to note that soon after our subcommittee marked up this bill former President Milosevic was turned over to the Tribunal. Despite this historic event, I strongly support retaining this language. It recognizes the simple fact that many war criminals remain at large and that our assistance should continue to be conditioned to a great degree on continued cooperation with the Tribunal. I thank the gentleman for his leadership on this issue. Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time. Mr. KOLBE. Mr. Chairman, I continue to reserve a point of order on this amendment, and I yield myself such time as I may consume. Mr. Chairman, let me just say about this issue, I understand the concerns that people have, and it is one that I share. We want to make sure that war criminals are brought to justice. We want to make sure that we move in Serbia to help develop democracy in that region. These are not mutually exclusive, by any means. But sometimes the orbits may come into conflict. We have two provisions in our bill relating to war criminals. Section 582 is a variation of last year's provision affecting Serbia. Section 578 is a streamlined replacement for the so-called Lautenberg Amendment that applies to all countries in the Balkans. That language, and I was just reading it the other day, it is pages and pages and pages in the bill that was so complicated it was just routinely waived. The committee recommendation this year I think is much more straightforward. Regarding Serbia, last year's language prohibited most assistance to Serbia after March 31 of 2001 unless the President can certify, among other things, that Yugoslavia was cooperating with the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. Such a certification was made last year. We have received requests to continue and even to strengthen the language this year. Our recommendation continues the language largely unchanged from last year. I am not enthusiastic about doing that. We need to help the people of Serbia and the reformers in that country and the long struggle they have been facing to reform their society. Punishing them for not fulfilling every aspect of The Hague Tribunal's directives may not, and I think is not, positive in the long run. We want to help the democratic governments in the Balkans. We are not trying to hurt them. We are not trying to stunt their democratic growth. The Hague Tribunal is part of an effort to promote democratic governments. We cannot sacrifice the future of democratic governments to the procedural niceties, however, of the tribunal. They need to work together. They need to go hand in hand. The tribunal needs to do its stuff, but the countries are not always going to find it possible to comply with every single thing that the tribunal might ask them. But I think it is worth noting, as every Member of this body is well aware, that President Milosevic, the key war criminal we were insisting that Serbia send to the tribunal, has been sent to The Hague. That has caused an enormous political difficulty for the government in Serbia. Let us not underestimate the great difficulties the Serbian Government, both at the provincial level as well as at the national, the federation level, has had in dealing with this problem. We also recognize that Croatia needs to send additional war criminals to The Hague. By bowing to international pressures, particularly pressure from the United States, the new democratic governments in the regions are facing tremendous risks, as we have been seeing with the political upheaval that has followed the transfer of President Milosevic to The Hague. So in our strong desire to have full compliance with the tribunal, I hope we do not end up hurting the very governments that we are trying to help. So for that reason, I think this is bad legislation, a bad approach to the problem. Mr. Chairman, I continue to reserve the balance of my time and also the point of order. Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself 2 minutes, just to respond briefly. And I know a point of order is lodged against this, or will be shortly, but the language really does focus on all governments, entities, and municipalities in the region. And, frankly, when we have a sense of impunity, and I know Kostunica and others are trying to do their part to try to rein in. While I was in Paris, at the OSCE parliamentary assembly, we had a very, very meaningful, as did other members of our delegation, meeting with the speaker of the parliament in Serbia. And I believe they really are serious about trying to rein in on the impunity that unfortunately was the modus operandi of Serbia for so long and the Republic of Yugoslavia. This language tries to say we are on your side, we want to help rid, or at least get to justice, those people who have committed these terrible crimes, because they intimidate their own people. On day two of the bombing, one of the people who had come to our Helsinki Commission and had testified on behalf of free media, at a time when Milosevic had shut down S92, and other independent media, he was murdered right after the bombing began. He was shot dead gangland-style by the thugs of Slobodan Milosevic. Some of those same people are still walking the streets. Otpor has come out, and they are naming names of police who have committed atrocities, putting themselves at considerable risk. So it seems to me that the more we encourage those democratic forces, and this is sense of the Congress language granted, the quicker they will get to a free and hopefully a robust democracy. Let me just finally say, and I say to this my good friend the chairman, our hope is that we look very seriously at a police academy for the Republic of Yugoslavia. We met with General Ralston, our delegation, on our trip, and he made it very clear that the Kosovo Academy, which has now graduated some 4,000 police, really is the model for the region. It is the way we ought to be going. If we want to exit and pull out NATO troops, U.S. troops, we need to have on the ground the kind of stability and transparency that a properly trained police academy with an emphasis on human rights can bring. And it seems to me that Bosnia and the Republic of Srpska and, of course, the Republic of Yugoslavia could benefit greatly from it. So I ask the amendment be supported by my colleagues.

  • Resolution on Kalmyk Settlement in America

    Mr. Speaker, today I am introducing a resolution congratulating the Kalmyk people in the United States on the fiftieth anniversary of their settlement in this country. The resolution also encourages continuing scholarly and educational exchanges between the Russian Federation and the United States to encourage better understanding and appreciation of the Kalmyk people and their contributions to the history and culture of both countries. The Kalmyks were originally an ethnic Mongolian nomadic people who have inhabited the Russian steppes for around 400 years. The present Kalmyk Republic of the Russian Federation is located north of the Caspian Sea in southern Russia. During World War II, the Kalmyk people were one of the seven “punished peoples'' exiled en masse by Stalin to “special settlements'' in Siberia and Central Asia for allegedly collaborating with the Nazis. There were about 170,000 deportees. After World War II, several hundred Kalmyks who managed to escape the Soviet Union were held in Displaced Persons camps in Germany. For several years, they were not allowed to emigrate to the United States because of prejudice against their Mongolian ethnicity. However, on July 28, 1951, the Attorney General of the United States issued a ruling which cleared the way for the Kalmyk people in the Displaced Persons camps in Germany to enter the United States. In the fifty years since their arrival, the Kalmyk emigres and their descendants have survived and prospered. Moreover, they are the first community of Tibetan Buddhists to settle in the United States. While adapting to much of America's diverse and modern culture, the Kalmyk have also sought to preserve their own unique traditions. Many continue to practice the Tibetan Buddhist religion. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Kalmyk community of the United States has been able to re-establish contact with the Kalmyk people in the Russian Federation. For the past ten years, a wide exchange has been developed between relatives, students and professionals. Mr. Speaker, our country is so much richer for the presence of our Kalmyk-American citizens. I urge my colleagues to join me and my colleagues Mr. Hoyer, Mr. Pitts, Mr. Cardin, Mr. Wamp, and Mr. Hastings, in congratulating the Kalmyk-American community on the fiftieth anniversary of their settlement in the United States by cosponsoring and supporting this resolution.

  • Bosnia’s Future under the Dayton Agreement

    There has been insufficient progress in implementing the Dayton Agreement, according to members of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (the Helsinki Commission)  regarding Bosnia’s future under the agreement which, in late 1995, ended almost four years of conflict in that country, marked by aggression and ethnic cleansing. The hearing witnesses called for the arrest and prosecution of those indicted for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide, including Bosnian Serb extremist leader Radovan Karadzic, his military sidekick Ratko Mladic and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, the mastermind of the conflict.

  • Report on the Presidential Election in Georgia

    On April 9, 2000, Georgia held a presidential election. According to the Central Election Commission, turnout was almost 76 percent. Incumbent President Eduard Shevardnadze won reelection with about 80 percent of the vote. Former Communist Party boss Jumber Patiashvili came in second, with 16.6 percent. The other candidates on the ballot were largely irrelevant. Though Shevardnadze’s victory was anticipated, it remained unclear until election eve whom he would defeat. Batumi Alliance leader Aslan Abashidze, boss of the Autonomous Republic of Ajaria, had announced last year plans to mount a presidential race, but many expected him to drop out, as he had no real chance of winning. By threatening a boycott, Abashidze won concessions from the CUG on the election law, but his overall strategy collapsed when his Batumi Alliance colleague, Jumber Patiashvili, announced plans to run against Shevardnadze no matter what. One day before the election, Abashidze withdrew, leaving Patiashvili as Shevardnadze’s only serious contender. The OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights election observation mission began its assessment by stating that “considerable progress is necessary for Georgia to fully meet its commitments as a participating state of the OSCE.” Among the problems in the election, ODIHR noted, inter alia, the authorities’ support for the incumbent, the failure of state media to provide balanced reportage, and the dominant role of the CUG in election commissions at all levels. While voting was generally conducted “calmly,” the “counting and tabulation procedures lacked uniformity and, at times, transparency.” The ODIHR also observed ballot stuffing and protocol tampering. Shevardnadze’s prospects for resolving the conflict in Abkhazia are bleak and he has little reason to expect help from Russia. Since the beginning of Russia’s latest campaign against Chechnya, Moscow has accused Tbilisi of allowing or abetting the transit of Chechen fighters through Georgian territory. These allegations also aim to pressure Georgia in negotiations about the withdrawal of Russia’s four military bases. High-level Russian political and military figures have made it plain that Moscow will try to retain the bases and will reassert its interests in the region to counter gains by Western countries, especially the United States. Tbilisi will need help from the United States in resisting a newly aggressive Moscow. Eduard Shevardnadze has long enjoyed good relations with Washington, which gratefully remembers his contribution as Soviet Foreign Minister to ending the Cold War peacefully. The United States has provided substantial assistance to Georgia and backed Shevardnadze morally as well. Presumably the congratulations tendered at the beginning of the State Department’s April 10 statement reflected appreciation for his past services, rather than acceptance at face value of the election’s results. President Clinton noted the election’s shortcomings in a post-election letter to Shevardnadze, reiterated Washington’s longstanding exhortation to attack corruption, and pressed him to implement urgent economic changes.

  • Kosovo’s Displaced and Imprisoned (Pts. 1 – 3)

    This hearing focused on former residents of Kosovo who were forced to leave their homes because of the conflict. Slobodan Milosevic was identified as a key figure in the displacement and the commissioners and witnesses discussed the possibility of the end of his regime.

  • Hearing Announced on Kosovo's Displaced and Imprisoned

    WASHINGTON—The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe today announced a forthcoming hearing: Kosovo’s Displaced and Imprisoned Monday, February 28 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Room B-318, Rayburn House Office Building   Open to Members, Staff, Public and Press Scheduled to testify: Bill Frelick, Director of Policy, U.S. Committee for Refugees His Grace Artemije, Serbian Orthodox Bishop of Prizren and Raska Andrzej Mirga, Co-Chair of the Council of Europe Specialists Group on Roma and Chairman of the Project on Ethnic Relations Romani Advisory Board Susan Blaustein, Senior Consultant, International Crisis Group Approximately two years ago, a decade of severe repression and lingering ethnic tensions in Kosovo erupted into full-scale violence, leading eventually to NATO intervention in early 1999 and UN administration immediately thereafter. The conflict in Kosovo was ostensibly between the Serbian and Yugoslav forces controlled by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic—since indicted for war crimes—on the one hand, and the Kosovo Liberation Army which arose from more militant segments of Kosovo’s Albanian majority on the other. As with previous phases of the Yugoslav conflict, however, the primary victims have largely been innocent civilians. Over one million ethnic Albanians were displaced during the conflict, as well as over one hundred thousand Serbs and tens of thousands of Roma in the aftermath of the international community’s intervention. Senseless atrocities were frequently committed throughout this process of forced migration. Many remain unable to return, and the recent violence in the northern city of Mitrovica demonstrates the continued volatility of the current situation. Meanwhile, a large number of Kosovar Albanians, removed from the region while it was still under Serbian control, languish in Serbian prisons to this day. The February 28 hearing intends to focus on the plight of these displaced and imprisoned people from Kosovo, as well as the prospects for addressing quickly and effectively their dire circumstances.

  • Chechen Crisis and its Implications for Russian Democracy

    This hearing of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe was held to discuss the renewed military action taken against Chechnya in response to terrorist bombings. There is extensive discussion on the ramification of Russian human rights violations for the state of Russian Democracy. Additionally, there are several arguments that the war could destabilize the Caucus region.

  • Report on Georgia's Parliamentary Elections: October 1999

    On October 31, 1999, Georgia held its third parliamentary election since gaining independence in 1991. President Eduard Shevardnadze’s ruling party, the Citizens Union of Georgia, scored a convincing victory. According to the Central Election Commission, in the first round, the CUG won 41.85 percent of the party list voting, or 85 seats, along with 35 single districts. The opposition Batumi Alliance, led by Ajarian strongman Aslan Abashidze, came in second, with 25.65 percent of the vote and seven districts, gaining 51 seats. Industry Will Save Georgia was the only other party to break the sevenpercent threshold for parliamentary representation, managing 7.8 percent and 14 seats. In second-round voting on November 14, the CUG increased its lead, picking up ten more seats, and then won another two in a November 28 third round, for a total of 132. The Batumi Alliance’s final tally was 59. Overall, the CUG has an absolute majority in Georgia’s 235-seat legislature, improving on the position it held from 1995-1999. The outcome did not indicate how tense the race had been between the CUG and the leftist, proRussian Batumi Alliance. A win by the latter threatened to move Georgia into Russia’s orbit and away from market reforms. The election also offered a foretaste of next year’s presidential contest, when Abashidze runs against Shevardnazde. With such high stakes and relations so confrontational between the contending forces, charges of widespread fraud dogged the elections. Of the Central Election Commission’s 19 members, only 13 signed the document announcing the results. Nevertheless, OSCE’s observation mission called the first round of the election a “step towards” compliance with OSCE commitments, adding that most of the worst violations occurred in Ajaria. OSCE’s verdict after the November 14 second round was more critical, noting violence at some polling stations and vote rigging and intimidation at others. OSCE’s initial cautiously positive judgement, however, allowed Eduard Shevardnadze to claim that democratization is proceeding in Georgia and that the country’s admission to the Council of Europe was well deserved.

  • The Situation in Dagestan

    This briefing addressed the security challenge face by Russia in the Northern Caucasus in light of an outbreak of fighting in Dagestan in response to unemployment and rampant crime. The potential role of the OSCE in achieving peace in Dagestan in a similar manner to its mission in Chechnya was discussed. Witnesses testifying at the briefing – including Dr. Robert Bruce Ware, a professor in the Department of Philosophical Studies at Southern Illinois University, and Dr. Zulfia Kisrieva-War a native from Dagestan – evaluated potential responses to several questions, including who the combatants in Dagestan are; their aims; why the region is such a volatile area; and whether Moscow has a coherent broad-based strategy for achieving peace and prosperity in the region. Historical background on the conflict and strategies for the international community to pursue moving forward were also topics of discussion.

  • Serbia, Montenegro, and Kosovo: The Views of Local Human Rights Advocates

    This briefing addressed the current situation of human rights in the former Yugoslavia and examined the role of the OSCE in bringing human rights to the forefront and attempting to hold governments accountable to their commitments in the post-Cold War era. Representatives from the Helsinki Committees in Montenegro and Kosovo, as well as the Director of the International Helsinki Foundation, were present at the briefing and spoke about the difficulties of raising awareness about human rights problem in each country with respect for the individual circumstances within the countries, and about the steps that might be taken in the future regarding increasing transparency within human rights.

  • Report on Azerbaijan's Presidential Election

    On October 11, 1998, Azerbaijan held presidential elections. The contest pitted incumbent President Heydar Aliev, the former Communist Party leader who returned to power in 1993, against moderate opposition leader Etibar Mamedov, political maverick Nizami Suleimanov, and three other candidates with little recognition or following. While no one seriously expected Aliev to lose, the opposition candidates were hoping for a second round. Five leading opposition politicians—Abulfaz Elchibey, Isa Gambar, Rasul Guliev, Ilyas Ismailov and Lala Shovket—boycotted the vote, unwilling to legitimize by their participation an election they believed would be unfair. Negotiations that took place in August between the government and the boycotting opposition over the most controversial aspect of the election—the composition of the Central Election Commission—proved unsuccessful, with the authorities rejecting the opposition’s demand for equal representation on the CEC. The five leaders, joined by numerous other parties and groups in the Movement for Electoral Reform and Democratic Elections, urged voters not to go to the polls. The authorities minimized the boycott’s significance, arguing that the opposition leaders knew they had no chance in a fair election and therefore preferred to claim fraud and not participate. Beginning August 15, the boycotting parties organized a series of rallies and demonstrations to pressure the government and call for fair elections. These were the first mass street actions in Azerbaijan in years. The authorities refused to let the opposition hold a demonstration in Freedom Square, in the center of Baku, offering alternative venues instead. On September 12, protesters clashed with police, resulting in arrests and injuries. Afterwards, authorities and opposition tried to reach agreement on the demonstrators’ route, and most pre-election rallies, some of which drew big crowds, were largely peaceful. The increasingly tense relations between the government and boycotting opposition parties were one factor in the OSCE/ODIHR’s appraisal of the election.  In ODIHR’s view, these failings outweighed the positive aspects of the election, such as the election law, which all sides acknowledged as acceptable, the freedom for candidates to speak openly on television, the abolition of censorship and provisions for domestic observers. The OSCE/ODIHR assessment was that the election fell short of meeting international norms. With the OSCE assessment placing in question the official results, the CEC’s failure to publish election protocols until long after the stipulated time period heightens doubts about President Aliev’s standing. The election was largely a referendum on his five-year presidency. Since his return to power in 1993, he has not solved the major problems besetting the country. The NagornoKarabakh conflict remains unsettled; Azerbaijani territory is still under Armenian occupation and no refugees have returned to their homes. Living standards for the great majority of the population have declined precipitously, though it is widely known that a tiny stratum of corrupt officials and businessmen have become rich. Moreover, the predominance of people from Nakhichevan - Aliev’s home region - in positions of power exacerbates general discontent.

  • Repression and Violence in Kosovo and Hearing on Kosovo: The Humanitarian Perspective

    This hearing, chaired by Commissioner Alfonse D’Amato, discussed the dire circumstances in Kosovo, specifically Serbian repression of the Kosovar Albanian majority population. In this hearing, D’Amato called for the U.S. to step up and prevent another outbreak of ethnic cleansing and achieve a peaceful resolution to the crisis. More specifically, to facilitate a lasting peace, the Commissioner called on U.S. leadership to make Slobodan Milosevic believe that the world would not stand by while the atrocities in Kosovo and Serbia continued. In addition, any settlement reached between Milosevic and the Kosovo Albanian leadership, D’Amato, continued, must be respected and protect the human rights of all individuals in Kosovo, without preconditions. Witnesses in this hearing discussed these human rights violations and the predicament of the Kosovar Albanians.

  • Bosnia

    During this briefing, Robert Hand, policy advisor at the Commission, led a discussion regarding Bosnia and its different regions. He spoke of the situation in Bosnia in 1998 and the power of ethnically-based political parties, retained through nationalism, corruption, and control of the media. Reconstruction in Bosnia has slow and challenging due to poor economic conditions and the continued displacement of certain populations. The witnesses - Luke Zahner, Candace Lekic, Jessica White, Roland de Rosier, Kathryn Bomberger, Brian Marshall - have served in regions all over Bosnia and gave valuable input on the differences between regions and their rehabilitations processes after the Dayton Accords. They also spoke of the influence of Republica Srpska and the Bosnian Federation on said regions.  Paying attention to these differences, they state, is important in that the United States wants to support only those that successfully implement the Dayton Accords.

  • The Present Situation in Albania

    This briefing, moderated by the Honorable Eliot Engel, Co-Chairman of the Albanian Issues Caucus, examined the international response to the crisis in Albania since the collapse of the pyramid schemes in the beginning of the year, which led to protests, rebellion, and political stalemate.  The need for free and fair elections was emphasized in light of a political impasse over the holding of elections in June. Witnesses testifying at the briefing – including Julius Varallyay, Principle Country Officer for East Central Europe for the World Bank, Stefano Stefanini from the Italian Embassy, and Avni Mustafaj, former Director of Open Society Foundation for Albania – discussed the previous efforts that had been made to encourage political reforms and steps that needed to be taken in the future. The need for a comprehensive donor assistance program to complement international assistance was specifically address, as was the political reform on which this program would depend.

  • Rebuilding Bosnia-Herzegovina: Strategies and the U.S. Role

    The Helsinki Commission addressed the status of the ongoing rehabilitation efforts in Bosnia-Herzegovina following the conclusion of the war that took place between 1992 and 1995. Amidst lasting tensions, the Commission emphasized the need for reconciliation and for civilians to actively participate in this process. The primary witness, J. Brian Atwood, administrator of the Agency for International Development, emphasized several goals for moving forward in Bosnia-Herzegovina such as addressing the issue of displaced persons by repairing housing infrastructure, encouraging economic activity through international cooperation with the central bank, and initiating elections under free and fair conditions. 

  • Mass Graves and Other Atrocities in Bosnia

    Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04) and others discussed the atrocities committed against women, men, and children in the former Yugoslavian country of Bosnia. These atrocities exemplified Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the former Yugoslavia at large, as areas where internecine violence and strife seemed to be constant phenomena.

  • The Latest Crisis in Bosnia-Herzegovina

    With Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04) presiding, this hearing focused on the continuing ethnic conflict in the former Yugoslavian country of Bosnia. This hearing was held with the events of the two weeks that preceded it in mind. More specifically, militants from Serbia had attacked UN outposts and, subsequently, had taken peacekeepers hostage.  In spite of the atrocities being committed against the Bosnian people, Rep. Smith stated that the international community viewed the conflict in Bosnia as more of a crisis than the Bosnians themselves. Unfortunately, though, as this hearing sought to address, the international community could have better responded to the crisis in the former Yugoslav country. As a witness, Dr. Haris Silajdzic was also in attendance.

  • Genocide in Bosnia

    This hearing focused on determinig if the recent ethnic cleansing, the destruction of cultural sites, and war crimes and crimes against humanity in Bosnia and the former Yugoslavia constituted genocide.  In particular, the witnesses and Commissioners discussed  how many of the war crimes were committed on orders from the military and the political leadership.

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