WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings, Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), issued the following statement in response to the decision of the Spanish Chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to not register the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society for the OSCE’s meeting on the Victims of Terrorism currently underway in Vienna, Austria (September 13-14, 2007):
“I am deeply troubled by the actions taken by Spain’s Chairmanship to prohibit the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society from participating in this meeting, and I support the U.S. Mission’s walk-out. Spain has sent the wrong message to the international community and to NGOs worldwide. Let the facts speak for themselves: Spain gave into Russian strong-arm tactics barring a non-violent NGO from attending this meeting. NGOs on a daily basis put their lives on the line in dangerous parts of the world in an effort to promote human rights, economic development, and environmental protections. As a member of Congress with considerable experience with the OSCE, I must work to ensure that all non-violent NGOs have access to meetings such as this one. In fact, the Chairmanship’s action was especially disturbing with a view to the OSCE’s upcoming annual human rights meeting. That meeting, opening in Warsaw on September 24, is Europe’s largest human rights meeting, attracting hundreds of activists from across the region,” said Hastings.
The meeting on Victims of Terrorism is organized jointly by the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODHIR) and the Spanish Chairmanship of the OSCE. The meeting brings together government representatives, legal professionals, and civil society representatives.