WASHINGTON – The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) will join a high-level State Department delegation Monday in Warsaw, Poland for one of the world’s largest international human rights conferences. The delegation to the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting is expected to include newly-confirmed Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael Posner.
Hundreds of human rights activists will join representatives from the 56 participating States of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) for frank exchanges on the implementation of key provisions of the Helsinki Final Act and other OSCE commitments.
Representatives from the Helsinki Commission will participate with other members of the U.S. delegation in the meeting, which will cover the full range of fundamental freedoms, including freedom of assembly and association as well as freedom of religion, expression and media.
“Non-governmental organizations play an indispensible role in the Helsinki Process,” said Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission. “Human rights defenders are the people on the frontlines protecting basic freedoms and trying to hold their governments accountable for human rights abuses. Many undertake their work at great personal risk; some have been sentenced to long prison terms, while others have been assassinated.”
“This two-week meeting is an invaluable venue for activists to address the most critical human rights fights of our day. It gives advocates for freedom a chance to speak truth to power that in some cases could land them in jail back in their home countries,” said Co-Chairman Congressman Alcee L. Hastings. “The Commission is always concerned that activists may face retribution after they speak at this meeting, at Commission hearings, or anywhere where they speak up to hold their governments accountable for human rights abuses.”
U.S. representatives plan to raise concerns about developments in Russia, where at least half a dozen journalists and human rights defenders have been killed in the past year, and Kazakhstan as the upcoming OSCE Chair-in-Office, which has placed restrictions on the Internet, newspapers, religious activity, and opposition political parties. Other sessions will focus on free and fair elections, the situation of Roma and challenges faced by other national minorities, as well as on combating human trafficking and anti-Semitism. The meeting runs from Sept. 28 to Oct. 9.