Toggle navigation menu.
Helsinki Default Banner

Chairman Wicker Acts to Protect Religious Freedom in Europe and Central Asia

WASHINGTON—Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) today introduced a bipartisan resolution (S.Res.539) urging President Trump to take action against some of the worst violators of religious freedom in Europe and Central Asia. Key targets of the legislation include the governments of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkey, and Russia, as well as Russian-led separatist forces in Ukraine.

“Our founding fathers made religious freedom a cornerstone of our country, and President Trump carries that legacy forward by making religious freedom a cornerstone of his presidency. This resolution is a blueprint for action in a region where governments have often attacked religious freedom instead of protecting it. When governments take steps toward improvement, as Uzbekistan has done, we should support and bolster their efforts,” said Chairman Wicker.

Helsinki Commissioner Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (NH) is the lead co-sponsor of the resolution. Other original co-sponsors of S.Res.539 include Helsinki Commissioners Sen. Thom Tillis (NC), Sen. John Boozman (AR), and Sen. Cory Gardner (CO), along with Sen. James Lankford (OK).

S.Res.539 targets governments of participating States of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) that have not complied with specific OSCE commitments to respect fundamental human rights and freedoms, including religious freedom.

The resolution urges President Trump to:

  • Re-designate Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan as “Countries of Particular Concern”—nations that engage in or tolerate severe violations of religious freedom such as torture, prolonged detention without charges, abduction or clandestine detention—and take actions required by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998
  • Designate Azerbaijan, Russia, and Turkey as “Special Watch List Countries” for severe violations of religious freedom, and designate Kazakhstan if it continues to tighten restrictions on religious freedom
  • Block entry to the United States and impose financial sanctions on individual violators in these countries, including but not limited to:
    • Turkish officials responsible for the imprisonment of Andrew Brunson, an American pastor who has been unjustly jailed since October 2016
    • Kremlin officials responsible for Russia’s forcible, illegal occupation of Crimea
    • Russian-led separatist forces in Ukraine
  • Instruct the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, former Helsinki Commission Chairman Sam Brownback, to develop a U.S. government strategy that promotes religious freedoms in these countries, especially prioritizing support for ongoing reforms in Uzbekistan

S.Res.539 is supported by prominent international religious freedom advocates, including:

  • Dr. Thomas Farr, President of the Religious Freedom Institute, and founding Director of the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom
  • Dr. Kent Hill, Executive Director of the Religious Freedom Institute, and Assistant Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (2001-2008)
  • The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention
  • Frank Wolf, former U.S. Representative (VA-10), and Distinguished Senior Fellow, 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative
  • Nina Shea, Director, Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom
  • Dr. Daniel Mark, Commissioner, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (2014-2018; Chairman 2017-2018), and Assistant Professor of Political Science, Villanova University
  • Rev. Dr. Andrew Bennett, Canada’s Ambassador for Religious Freedom (2013-2016), and Program Director for Cardus Law
  • Dr. Aykan Erdemir, Senior Fellow, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and Member of Parliament, Grand National Assembly of Turkey (2011-2015)
  • Dr. Elijah Brown, General Secretary, Baptist World Alliance
  • Dr. Byron Johnson, Director, Institute for Studies of Religion, Baylor University
  • Dr. Daniel Philpott, Professor of Political Science, Notre Dame University
  • Dr. Kathleen Collins, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Minnesota

Media contact

Category
Country
Issue
Date
Filter Topics Open Close
Press Releases

HELSINKI COMMISSION SENDS APPEAL TO GEORGIAN PRESIDE...

Apr 28, 2023

WASHINGTON— The leadership of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, Chairman Representative Joe Wilson (SC-02), Co-Chairman Senator Ben Cardin (MD), and Ranking Members Representative Steve Cohen (TN-09) and Senator Roger Wicker (MS) sent a letter to Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili urging her to intervene to break […]

screen-reader-text
Hearings

CHURCH, STATE, AND RUSSIA’S WAR ON UKRAINE

Apr 27, 2023

The Putin regime has long used the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) to consolidate its power at home and abroad. Under the leadership of Patriarch Kirill, the ROC has explicitly endorsed Russia’s war on Ukraine, even blessing weapons for the invasion. Churches under the mantle of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) had long been viewed […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Congressmen Cohen and Wilson Introduce Resolution Re...

Oct 28, 2022

WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), Co-Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, and the Commission’s Ranking Member, Congressman Joe Wilson (SC-02), today introduced a resolution recognizing October 30 as International Day of Political Prisoners. Congressman Cohen was recently named the Special Representative on Political Prisoners […]

screen-reader-text
Statements

Congressmen Cohen and Wilson Introduce Resolution Re...

Oct 28, 2022

WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), Co-Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, and the Commission’s Ranking Member, Congressman Joe Wilson (SC-02), today introduced a resolution recognizing October 30 as International Day of Political Prisoners. Congressman Cohen was recently named the Special Representative on Political Prisoners […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

CO-CHAIRMAN COHEN APPOINTED AS OSCE PARLIAMENTARY AS...

Jul 21, 2022

WASHINGTON—Margareta Cederfelt, President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (PA), has appointed Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09) as the first-ever OSCE PA Special Representative on Political Prisoners. “I welcome the chance to serve as the voice of political prisoners across the OSCE region,” said Co-Chairman Cohen. “Every day, we witness more political arrests of […]

screen-reader-text
Articles

Chairman Cardin, OSCE participating States Commit to...

Feb 15, 2022

By Ryn Hintz, Paulina Kanburiyan, and Worth Talley, Max Kampelman Fellows, and Shannon Simrell, Representative of the Helsinki Commission to the U.S. Mission to the OSCE On February 7 – 8, 2022, the OSCE’s Polish Chair-in-Office organized a high-level conference in Warsaw on Combating Anti-Semitism in the OSCE Region with the support of OSCE’s Office […]

screen-reader-text
Logo_tile_368x331
Press Releases

Helsinki Commission Commemorates 45 Years of Advanci...

Jun 03, 2021

WASHINGTON—To commemorate the 45th anniversary of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, on June 3, Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (MD) and commission leaders Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) and Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-02) issued the following statements: “The Helsinki Commission has played a vital role in elevating […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Cardin, Hudson Pledge Support to Ukraine in Bilatera...

May 03, 2021

WASHINGTON—In response to increased Russian aggression against Ukraine, Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (MD) and Commissioner Rep. Richard Hudson (NC-08) initiated an exceptional bilateral meeting with members of the Ukrainian Delegation to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA) on April 30.  Chairman Cardin, who serves as Head of the U.S. Delegation to the Assembly, […]

screen-reader-text
Helsinki Commission Logo 1500x770
Publications

Helsinki Commission Digital Digest: April 2021

Apr 30, 2021

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Wicker, Shaheen Reintroduce Bill to Hold Russia Acco...

Apr 22, 2021

WASHINGTON—Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (NH) today reintroduced the bipartisan Ukraine Religious Freedom Support Act (S.1310). It is a companion bill to H.R. 496, introduced by Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-02) and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (MO-05), which unanimously passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday. “The Kremlin’s current repression in Ukraine mirrors an […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Helsinki Commissioners Reintroduce Ukraine Religious...

Jan 29, 2021

WASHINGTON—Helsinki Commission Ranking Member Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-02) and Commissioner Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, II (MO-05) yesterday reintroduced the bipartisan Ukraine Religious Freedom Support Act (H.R. 496) in the House of Representatives. The House unanimously passed the original legislation, which targets Russia’s religious freedom violations in Ukraine, on November 18, 2020. “The Kremlin and its proxies […]

screen-reader-text
Helsinki Commission Logo 1500x770
Publications

Helsinki Commission Digital Digest: January 2021

Jan 29, 2021

screen-reader-text