Toggle navigation menu.
Helsinki Default Banner

Helsinki Commission Chairman Succeeds with Passage of OSCE Resolution Honoring 25th Anniversary of Helsinki Final Act

WASHINGTON – United States Helsinki Commission Chairman Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) on Monday won passage of a resolution marking the 25th Anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act during the annual meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly. The resolution recalled the importance of the Helsinki process in promoting human rights, democracy and the rule of law within the 54 countries that participate in the OSCE.

The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly was held July 6 – 10, 2000 in Bucharest, Romania and included 249 parliamentarians from throughout the OSCE region. The resolution also highlights the critical role of human rights advocates, both historically and today, in pushing governments to respect the human rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act. The resolution specifically recognized that some human rights defenders have been the target of retribution for their efforts to expose human rights abuses throughout Europe, while others have died as a result of their efforts to promote human rights.

“It is an honor to recognize the human rights defenders who serve to defend victims of human rights abuses only to become victims themselves, thanks to the willingness of some political leaders to look the other way in the face of blatant injustice,” Smith said. According to Smith, examples can be found in several OSCE countries of human rights advocates and attorneys, who are facing, or have faced, the problems described in the resolution. To illustrate this point, Smith described cases in Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan where human rights attorneys or members of non-governmental organizations have faced harassment, intimidation or violence as a result of their human rights activities and related criticism of their respective governments.

Smith cited two cases in Northern Ireland in which prominent defense attorneys were murdered because of their efforts to ensure respect for their clients’ due process rights and other human rights. In one case, Northern Ireland defense attorney Rosemary Nelson – a wife and mother of three young children – was murdered by a loyalist paramilitary group in a car bomb explosion on March 15, 1999. Ten years earlier, defense attorney Patrick Finucane was also murdered in his home by loyalist paramilitaries. Both attorneys were widely known in Belfast due to their legal representation of Catholic clients in politically sensitive cases. Both attorneys reported that members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC)-the Northern Ireland police force-made death threats against them while interviewing the attorneys’ clients without their attorneys present. Several human rights groups have alleged, and documented, that the circumstances surrounding the Nelson and Finucane murders strongly suggest collusion between members of the RUC, other British Government agents, and Loyalist paramilitaries in the murders. The British Government’s efforts to investigate the murders and the allegations of collusion have been riddled with problems and questions. To date, no one has been successfully prosecuted for either Finucane or Nelson’s murder.

“Rosemary Nelson’s murder was a cowardly act by those who are the enemies of peace and justice in Northern Ireland,” Smith said. “Her death is a loss felt not just by her family and friends, but by all of us who advocate fundamental human rights.” After a fact-finding mission to Northern Ireland, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers found that “the RUC has engaged in activities which constitute intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference” with defense attorneys. The Special Rapporteur described these activities as “consistent and systematic.”

On March 15, 2000, the first anniversary of Rosemary Nelson’s death, Nelson’s family presented to the British Government a petition signed by 100,000 people calling for an independent judicial inquiry into the circumstances surrounding her death. The British Government has rejected this and numerous other calls – including legislation (H.Res. 128) passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in April, 1999 – for independent inquiries into the circumstances surrounding the murders.

The resolution expresses the Parliamentary Assembly’s concern “that human rights defenders, including human rights attorneys, who are engaged in promoting and defending human rights and fundamental freedoms in the OSCE region today have been the targets of detention, harassment, intimidation, specious legal obstacles and criminal prosecution and, in some instances, violence directed against them, and that human rights attorneys have been stripped of their licenses or threatened with disbarment.” The resolution also suggests that “OSCE participating States must take steps to ensure the safety of human rights defenders and to hold accountable persons who are responsible for threatening, harassing or otherwise harming human rights defenders on account of their efforts to promote and defend human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

Media contact

Category
Country
Issue
Date
Filter Topics Open Close
Articles

United States Demonstrates Global Leadership on Ukra...

Jul 14, 2023

The Helsinki Commission’s four senior leaders helmed the United States’ bicameral, bipartisan delegation to the 30th Annual Session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly last week in Vancouver, Canada. Co-Chairman Senator Ben Cardin (MD), serving as Head of Delegation, was joined by Chairman Joe Wilson (SC-02) as Deputy Head of Delegation as well as Ranking Members […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Helsinki Commission Chair and Co-Chair Lead Delegati...

Jul 10, 2023

WASHINGTON—Helsinki Commission Co-Chair Senator Ben Cardin (MD) and Helsinki Commission Chair Representative Joe Wilson (SC-02) led a bipartisan Congressional delegation to the 30th Annual Session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA) in Vancouver, Canada from June 30-July 4. As Head of Delegation and Deputy Head of Delegation respectively, Senator Cardin and Representative Wilson welcomed the […]

screen-reader-text
Hearings

North Macedonia’s Leadership of the OSCE in a ...

Feb 28, 2023

North Macedonia has taken up leadership of the world’s largest regional security organization—the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)—a year into Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine. Much of the OSCE’s focus over the past year has revolved around responses to the war, including using the organization to condemn Russian aggression and hold the […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

HEARING: NORTH MACEDONIA’S LEADERSHIP OF THE OSCE IN...

Feb 24, 2023

Tuesday, February 28, 2023 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. Streaming: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNgAOyC9f5g North Macedonia has taken up leadership of the world’s largest regional security organization—the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)—a year into Putin’s brutal, full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Much of the OSCE’s focus over the past year has revolved around responses to the war, […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

U.S. Delegation to the OSCE PA presents Joint Statem...

Feb 24, 2023

WASHINGTON— Today, the U.S. Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE PA) endorsed the “Joint Statement of Action on the One-Year Anniversary of Russia’s War Against Ukraine and the International Legal Order,” which was endorsed by the OSCE PA Bureau and published today at the conclusion of the […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Steadfast Support for Ukraine: United States Delegat...

Feb 23, 2023

WASHINGTON – Today, the United States Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE PA), led by Senator Ben Cardin (MD), met with Mykyta Poturaiev, Ukraine’s Head of Delegation and additional representatives of the Ukrainian Rada in Vienna, Austria, along with the Heads of Delegation of Canada, Estonia, […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Helsinki Commissioners Urge Austria to Deny Visas to...

Feb 15, 2023

WASHINGTON – Helsinki Commission leadership, Chairman Rep. Joe Wilson, Co-Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin, and Rep. Steve Cohen, on February 10, sent a letter to Austrian Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexander Schallenberg to reconsider granting visas to the Russian delegation to the Winter Meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, […]

screen-reader-text
Articles

OSCE’s 2022 Ministerial Council in Lodz: Russia Isol...

Dec 09, 2022

By Janice Helwig, Senior Policy Advisor, Demitra Pappas, Senior Advisor Department of State, Shannon Simrell, Representative of the Helsinki Commission to the U.S. Mission to OSCE Foreign Ministers and senior officials from the 57 participating States and 11 Asian and Mediterranean partners of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) convened the OSCE […]

screen-reader-text
Articles

NATO Refocused, Europe Reinforced

Aug 10, 2022

By Jessika Nebrat, Max Kampelman Fellow​ Following the escalation of Russia’s war against Ukraine, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is playing a role it has not filled in years. Forced to reconcentrate its attention to Europe’s defense, NATO allies are demonstrating persistent resolve in countering Moscow’s expansionist tendencies. In doing so, NATO returns to a core […]

screen-reader-text
Publications

Helsinki Commission Digital Digest July 2022

Jul 29, 2022

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Co-Chairman Cohen Deplores Arrest of Ilya Yashin in ...

Jul 28, 2022

WASHINGTON—In response to the arrest of Ilya Yashin, a Russian politician critical of Russia’s war in Ukraine, the Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman and OSCE PA Special Representative on Political Prisoners Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09) issued the following statement: “Putin’s government has been engaged in a systematic assault on Russian citizens who dare speak the truth about […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Co-Chairman Cohen Condemns Execution of Democracy Ac...

Jul 28, 2022

WASHINGTON—Following the execution of four democracy activists by Myanmar’s military junta, Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman and OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Special Representative on Political Prisoners Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09) issued the following statement: “I strongly condemn the execution of these courageous activists by Myanmar’s unelected and illegitimate regime. These men—Kyaw Min Yu, Phyo Zeya Thaw, Hla Myo […]

screen-reader-text