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U.S. Helsinki Commission to Hold Hearing on Implications of Guantanamo for U.S. Human Rights Leadership

WASHINGTON – Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) and Co-Chairman Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) will hold a hearing on Thursday, June 21 at 10:00 am in room 2325 of the Rayburn House Office Building. The hearing is entitled “Guantanamo: Implications for U.S. Human Rights Leadership” will focus on the international perspective of Guantanamo, particularly in the 56 participating States of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and implications for U.S. leadership on human rights issues. President of the Belgian Senate and Special Representative on Guantanamo, Anne-Marie Lizin, will testify at the hearing. In February 2005, Senator Lizin was appointed by Chairman Hastings, acting in his capacity as President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, as Special Representative on Guantanamo.  In addition, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), who is a former Chair and Ranking Democrat of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, will participate in the hearing.

The detention facility at the U.S. Naval Bases at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was opened in January 2002 and, it currently holds around 385 detainees. The facility has come under fire from human rights organizations and others for the alleged mistreatment of detainees and the legal framework according to which they have been held. On June 10, Former Secretary of State Colin Powell on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” called for the closing of Guantanamo. Powell stated, “Guantanamo has become a major, a major problem for America’s perception — as it’s seen, the way the world perceives America. And if it was up to me, I would close Guantanamo — not tomorrow, this afternoon. I’d close it. And I’d not let any of those people go. I would simply move them to the United States and put them into our federal legal system. The concern was, well, then they’ll have access to lawyers, then they’ll have access to writs of habeas corpus. So what? Let them. Isn’t that what our system’s all about?”

Witnesses to testify at hearing are as follows:

Mr. John B. Bellinger III, Legal Adviser, Department of State Senator Anne-Marie Lizin, President of the Belgian Senate and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Special Representative on Guantanamo

Mr. Tom Malinowski, Advocacy Director, Human Rights Watch

Mr. Gabor Rona, International Legal Director, Human Rights First

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