Washington – United States Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) will introduce a resolution at the July meeting of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly seeking to ban the use of incommunicado detention, which denies detainees contact with the outside world.
In addition, the resolution calls on participating States to exclude evidence obtained through the use of torture, or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in courts of law or legal proceedings.
“On July 6-10, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly will meet in Paris for its annual meeting. I am introducing a proposal on the prevention of torture that calls for a complete ban, in law and in practice, on incommunicado detention. In too many instances, this practice continues to foster an environment in which torture or other forms of abuse can and do occur. This practice must be ended and the OSCE participating States should commit to this in unequivocal terms.”
June 26 is the United Nations’International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.
The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly consists of legislators from the 55 OSCE participating States. It meets each July and debates and adopts, by majority vote, a declaration addressing all three areas of OSCE activity (military-security, the economic and environmental dimension, and human rights).
“Unfortunately, widespread torture remains a serious problem in several OSCE countries. In Turkmenistan, Baptist Minister Shagildy Atakov is being held prisoner and tortured because of his faith. In Uzbekistan, Mamadali Makhmudov, a renowned writer, has been tortured before and after his sentencing to 14 years in prison and opposition activist Elena Urlaeva has been incarcerated in a psychiatric institution, recalling the worst of Soviet-era practices.”
“In Turkey, as recently as a few weeks ago, women who had been tortured and came forth publicly to denounce these practices and call for reform detained and tortured again for speaking out and criticizing the state. Ironically, those who seek to assist victims of torture in Turkey have in a number of instances become victims of torture themselves. The resolution I have prepared speaks not only to these egregious examples, but many other cases in the region.” The resolution also: * condemns the practice of racial or ethnic profiling by police and other law enforcement agencies;
* calls on participating States to encourage the development of treatment centers for victims of torture; and
* calls on participating States to protect medical personnel for their role in documenting torture and treating torture victims.
In 1998, Chairman Smith sponsored the Torture Victims Relief Act. For fiscal year 2000, Congress authorized and appropriated the following funds: * $7.5 million for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to assist treatment programs in the United States;
* $7.5 million for the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID) to support foreign treatment centers; and
* $3 million as a contribution to the U. N. Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture.
The United States Helsinki Commission by law monitors and encourages progress in implementing provisions of the Helsinki Accords. The Commission, created in 1976, is composed of nine Senators, nine Representatives and one official each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce.