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Helsinki Commission Releases U.S. Closing Plenary Statement at OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting

Warsaw, Poland – The following Closing Plenary Statement delivered by the United States at the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation currently being held in Warsaw, Poland:

Closing Plenary Statement

Statement of Ambassador Deputy Assistant Secretary Scott Carpenter

U.S. Delegation to the OSCE Implementation Meeting

Mr. Chairman, Ms. Jilani, Ladies and Gentlemen:

As Deputy Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, I take great pleasure in being able to address you. While I regret that a Permanent Council meeting in Vienna prevented many from the Permanent Missions to the OSCE from attending this meeting last week, I am glad to see you here today.

Before I begin my official remarks, I would like to thank ODIHR for its organization of this meeting and to thank our Polish hosts. I would also like to thank Ambassador Stoudmann for his energetic leadership, tireless professionalism, and excellent stewardship in advancing ODIHR values throughout the OSCE area. You will be missed.

For almost two weeks now, we have gathered here in one of the world’s most important meetings dedicated to the human condition. We have heard candid descriptions of problems, as well as far-reaching recommendations for their solution. Our responsibility now is to carry this work forward: first and foremost, to our capitals; second, to the OSCE’s decision-making process in Vienna; and, of course, to the Ministerial Meeting in December. Developing Civil Society and the Rule of Law

One of the high points of our meeting has been the very active participation of non-governmental organizations, particularly from the countries of the former Soviet Union. The HDIM has provided a superb opportunity for them, many of whom have come from great distances and at considerable personal risk, to contribute to our discussions and provide fertile ideas for future partnerships with the OSCE and its participating States. We have been particularly impressed with their emphasis on the fundamental need to create independent judicial systems, establish public confidence in electoral systems, and support the freedom of the media as key elements in creating solid democratic foundations for vulnerable countries in transition. These must be key priorities for our future work. Without this very active participation of the NGOs–in formal meetings, in side events and in numerous corridor sessions–this meeting would have been immeasurably diminished. Anti-Semitism One of the concerns my delegation raised in our opening statement is the surge of anti-Semitism in the OSCE region. Such manifestations of intolerance require immediate and clear responses. Public officials have a responsibility to condemn such acts using clear and unmistakable language. We are deeply concerned that many countries persist in denying the true character of such acts, labeling them, instead, for example, as “hooliganism” or expressions of frustration by unemployed young people. Sometimes, political leaders even try to exploit religious differences for personal advantage, often creating sectarian violence as a means to gain political advantage. Violent acts against individuals and property should be investigated and prosecuted fully. We welcome the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s attention to this issue at its most recent meeting. Roma

Once again, Roma have come to Warsaw to underscore the diverse human rights problems they face, such as the skinhead attacks in Poprad, Slovakia, just this week. One area where governments can, and must, do much more is in the field of education. We welcome the initiatives announced by the Government of Bulgaria last week to foster the integration of Roma in Bulgaria’s school system. Desegregation will not only provide the next generation of Roma with access to the quality of education they need to take their rightful place in European society, it will also teach lessons of tolerance and diversity to all school children. Desegregation programs deserve the full support of every participating State. Human Rights Defenders

It is particularly appropriate that we are joined here today by the UN Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders. The systematic denial of rights to those who seek to defend human rights is, unfortunately, another theme that has appeared and reappeared throughout this meeting – perhaps because governments have found so many ways to try to limit their work.

One of the most effective ways that human rights defenders pursue their goals is to join together with others; this requires, of course, that they be allowed to assemble without fear of reprisal. But in this year alone demonstrators have been shot and killed in both Kyrgyzstan and Azerbaijan. While the government in Kyrgyzstan resigned as a result of a State Commission report investigating the causes of the tragic events in March 2002, we hope that additional recommendations made by that Commission as well as by ODIHR, including increasing transparency and enacting necessary political reforms, will be implemented under the President’s leadership. In Azerbaijan, official claims that the demonstrators in Nardaran had firearms have not been confirmed, and the persistent refusals by the authorities to sanction peaceful demonstrations in Azerbaijan casts doubts on the government’s explanations.

In Belarus, the government has repeatedly restricted the right of NGOs to assemble and demonstrate. Hundreds of peaceful demonstrators were arrested by riot police on April 19 while protesting against living conditions in Belarus. And just this week the journalist Viktar Ivashkevich was sentenced to two years forced labor for attempted slander of the president, once again demonstrating the Belarusian regime’s hostility to the independent media. These actions are inconsistent with Belarus’ OSCE commitment to freedom of assembly and free speech. The increasing self-isolation of Belarus has not deterred those who, courageously, continue to hold up a mirror from which the authorities would prefer to turn away. Belarus should move quickly to live up to its OSCE commitments and allow the return of OSCE AMG personnel.

In Uzbekistan, it is not only human rights defenders but also those of disfavored religious faiths who face severe government reprisals. In the worst cases, the victims are not only tortured, they are tortured to death. Most recently, Muzafar Avazov and Khusnuddin Olimov joined the list of many others who have been taken into the custody of Uzbek officials alive, only to be returned to their families dead. In hundreds of cases, convictions in Uzbekistan have been obtained through forced confessions. We urge all OSCE participating States to treat confessions and other evidence obtained through the use of torture as inadmissible in legal proceedings. Like others, my delegation was heartened to learn that in January four Uzbek police officers had been sentenced to 20 years for their role in torturing a man to death while in detention and more recently that three National Security Service (NSS) officers also received long prison sentences for beating to death suspects in detention. However, those who have been targeted for arrest because of their religious or political views continue to face risks of being tortured and in danger of not surviving their imprisonment. We, therefore, urge the Uzbek Government to investigate the many other cases of those who have died at the hands of state authorities and immediately release those who are in jail for their religious or political views, including Rahima Ahmedalieva, Imam Abduvahid Yuldashev, and Mamadali Makhmudov.

Finally, we regret that Turkmenistan, although a member of the OSCE, has once again declined to take part in our meeting. We remain deeply concerned about the almost total absence of fundamental freedoms and the widespread abuses of human rights that take place in that country. Human Rights and Terrorism

I welcome the vigorous discussion among many participants regarding the challenge of respecting human rights while engaging in a war against terrorism. Many non-governmental representatives, in particular, expressed concern that participating States, including my own, are either ignoring human rights in exchange for cooperation on security issues, or even using the fight against terrorism as an excuse to crack down on opposition or religious groups. This is simply not true. As President Bush and Secretary Colin Powell have often reiterated, the war against terrorism is fundamentally a war for democracy and human rights. The war against terrorism is not and cannot be used as an excuse to crackdown on internal dissent or to quash legitimate political opposition.

We reiterate our rejection of the notion that terrorism is associated with any particular religion or culture. We believe the OSCE should redouble its efforts to implement the Bucharest Ministerial Plan of Action, as well as the Declaration from the Bishkek International Conference on Security and Stability in Central Asia, both of which include support for freedom of the media and association.

Many of our countries face challenges today from groups or organizations whose stated goals stand contrary to the most fundamental principles of the Helsinki Final Act. But we must be sure that participating States distinguish between the propagation of ideas, however extremist, and the actual action of groups. If they fail to do so, they risk inadvertently increasing support for these groups through undemocratic and heavy-handed responses, as appears to be the case in Chechnya. At the same time, we recognize the need to offer more assistance to our Central Asian partners, for example, by increasing training for professional police and border guards who must be able to provide security without violating human rights.

Countries that use repressive measures against extremists obviously see that as necessary for survival, as necessary for security. Security is, indeed, one of government’s highest responsibilities. But security gained through oppression and other action that tramples on the rule of law and democractic principles is a counterproductive illusion that is very short lived. The only type of security that will endure is one that is achieved by democratically elected governments which are absolutely committed to human rights and the rule of law. All OSCE member states have agreed, in writing, to adhere to these precepts. We must all help each other to do so and we, the United States, are committed to providing such assistance through OSCE institutions.

On election standards, I would like to reiterate the point my delegation made yesterday: there is no more important work for the ODIHR than the monitoring of elections and the assistance it offers participating States in developing their own unique election procedures. These procedures are and should be unique, drawn from the history and democratic traditions of each country. We welcome yesterday’s discussion and look forward to a continued exchange of ideas and experiences with OSCE participating States, missions, and experts on the best way forward.

In closing, we thank all of you for your active involvement in making this meeting so successful. We ask each of you to work actively with the OSCE to ensure that progress is made and that we have a sense of accomplishment when we meet again next year. The well-being of millions depend on the work that all of us are doing. We must not fail.

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