WASHINGTON—In response to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) informal agreement to hold a summit in Kazakhstan before the end of this year, Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), issued the following statement:
“The U.S. Helsinki Commission welcomes the agreement reached in Almaty to hold an OSCE summit. The OSCE region is facing tremendous challenges, and we believe the OSCE as an organization will benefit from renewed political commitments, particularly in the areas of human rights and conflict resolution.
“Our support for an OSCE summit has always been linked to the premise that the summit must address substance and be linked to clear outcomes. There are a number of important issues that should be addressed, including stabilizing the situation in Kyrgyzstan; increasing OSCE work with Afghanistan; strengthening conflict prevention mechanisms and the arms control regime (including resolving the CFE impasse), and strengthening implementation of human dimension commitments by OSCE participating States. It is clear that much work must be done in the short time until the proposed summit.
“The decision to hold a summit means that the participating States will hold a review conference which will absorb the usual human dimension implementation review and join that with review of the military security and economic and environmental dimensions of the OSCE. Kazakhstan has committed to holding part of that review in Kazakhstan immediately before the summit and this will include discussion of fundamental human rights.
“We continue to call on Kazakhstan, as the Chair-in-Office and host of the summit, to respect all its OSCE commitments and to fulfill the promises it made regarding democratic reform at the OSCE Madrid Ministerial in 2007. In particular, this should include the decriminalization of libel and registering opposition political parties.
“Kazakhstan should also demonstrate more openness to civil society and NGOs, not only during the upcoming review conference, but also beyond their chairmanship year. We have significant concerns about media freedom and political freedom in Kazakhstan. The case of Evgeny Zhovtis is just one example of the need for greater respect for the rule of law.”