Statement by Ambassador Bohlen on Democratic Election at the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting
Sesssion 15 – OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting
Democratic Institutions including Democratic Elections
The conduct of democratic elections requires not only transparent management of polling, but also an open pre-election environment in which citizens can participate fully, political parties can compete freely, independent media can operate, and an independent and impartial judicial system can function in a fair, transparent and effective manner. A review of election commitments must, then, consider all of these issues.
The United States values the efforts of the OSCE to develop capacity among OSCE participating and partner States to implement OSCE and international commitments with respect to elections, and to effectively manage international observation in the OSCE region. Both the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly contribute to these endeavors and to fostering widespread respect for OSCE’s role in promoting democratic elections.
The United States commends the OSCE and its Mission in Kosovo, supported by other OSCE Missions in the region, for successfully facilitating the participation of Kosovo Serbs in Serbia’s presidential and parliamentary elections earlier this year without infringing on Kosovo’s sovereignty. Serbia conducted those elections in a free, fair and transparent manner, and Belgrade and Pristina both recognized – despite their other differences – the needs and rights of voters. The OSCE’s assistance was a reminder of what the organization can do in the field, an accomplishment that should be emulated and expanded to other troubled areas of the OSCE region.
We welcome the recent adoption of a new electoral code in Albania, and encourage both the authorities and stakeholders in that country to respect and implement the code. If Albania’s 2013 Parliamentary elections are to meet international and OSCE commitments, all parties must commit to transparency and to playing by the rules established by the legislature.
Unfortunately, there have been too many recent elections in the OSCE region in which electoral commissions showed bias in favor of governing parties and incumbent leaders, access by opposition candidates to the media was limited or non-existent, and opposition candidates or parties were harassed and/or intimidated. Some elections have seen citizen participation subverted by disenfranchisement, inaccurate voter registries, or barriers to observing electoral processes. In some countries, genuine opposition parties or candidates simply do not have a chance to emerge. This fundamentally undermines the purpose of an election – the free and fair expression of the will of the people – notwithstanding the smooth technical management of an election day.
We commend the Russian people for their serious, sustained, and peaceful activism in defense of their right to select their own government. Nevertheless, we regret that both the Duma and Presidential elections were marred by widespread and credible allegations of fraud. We urge the Russian Federation to implement the democratic principles to which it has subscribed, including equal access to media and freedom of citizens to seek, receive and impart information about elections through the activities of citizen election monitoring organizations. In addition, citizens must be permitted to exercise their freedom of assembly in support of, or in opposition to, any candidate or issue.
The United States congratulates the citizens of Georgia on their historic parliamentary elections October 1. While the final count and appeals are still ongoing, we support the assessment of the OSCE/ODIHR election observers that the Georgian people have freely expressed their will at the ballot box. We urge all parties to work together constructively in the new parliament to advance Georgia’s democratic and economic development. We look forward to working with the new parliament as well as the cabinet and president of Georgia to further expand our already strong bilateral relationship.
This coming Sunday, October 7, Bosnia-Herzegovina will hold local elections. My delegation is concerned that officials of Republika Srpska may be targeting non-Serb voters in an attempt to discourage or prevent their full participation in these elections in Srebrenica municipality. Obviously, given the genocide which occurred in Srebrenica in 1995, attempts to intimidate or prevent duly registered voters from exercising their rights on election day are particularly egregious, and we call on Republika Srpska officials to respect the rights of all voters on October 7.
Whereas Ukraine’s last four national elections have received positive assessments from the OSCE election missions, we remain deeply concerned about the politically motivated prosecutions of opposition leaders Yuliya Tymoshenko and Yuri Lutsenko and their prohibition from participating in the October 28 parliamentary elections, which limits the scope of choices presented to the Ukrainian people. We also remain concerned about reports of violations of campaign rules and about limitations imposed on independent media.
The recent Belarusian elections failed to meet international obligations and OSCE commitments. Leading prospective opposition candidates were denied registration and the democratic opposition was almost completely excluded from election commissions. The Lukashenka regime continued to stifle dissent and to limit opposition to its rule by harassing, intimidating, and detaining democratic activists and independent journalists. In the short time since the elections, the government of Belarus has also announced that it will not work with the UN Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur. We urge the government of Belarus to release and rehabilitate all political prisoners, facilitate the work of the UN Special Rapporteur, and allow the people of Belarus to voice their opinions in free and fair elections.
As we look forward to upcoming elections in the region, including the 2013 presidential elections in Tajikistan, we stress the importance of promoting democratization and ensuring transparent presidential elections consistent with OSCE standards. The Tajik government’s continued campaign against religious voices indicates a government attempt to neutralize the political opposition and to consolidate power. Democratic elections come with varying and dissenting political views and voices that must not be stifled or limited. In the same vein, we continue to be concerned by restrictions on the press and imposed censorship on independent media, which play a critical role in democratic elections.
The United States will also hold Presidential and Congressional elections this November 6. We are pleased to welcome an OSCE/ODIHR Limited Election Observation Mission with Long Term Observers. LTOs will begin deployment in 40 states across the country on October 13. We look forward to ODIHR’s assessment of our elections.
Statement by Ambassador Bohlen on Tolerance and Non-Discrimination at the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting
Session 14 – OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting
Tolerance and nondiscrimination: Prevention and responses to hate crimes in the OSCE area; Combating racism, xenophobia and discrimination, also focusing on intolerance and nondiscrimination against Christians and members of other religions; Combating anti-Semitism; Combating intolerance and discrimination against Muslims
Anti-Semitism is one of the oldest forms of intolerance and one that has had the most dire consequences, with millions of Europe’s Jews slaughtered during the Holocaust. Sadly, more than six decades after the end of the Second World War, anti-Semitism is still alive and well, and evolving into new, contemporary forms of religious hatred, racism, and political, social and cultural bigotry. Despite the OSCE’s decade-long fight against anti-Semitism, this insidious form of bigotry continues in the region. In the United States, anti-Semitic criminal incidents continue to outnumber the incidents of hate directed against other religious groups. Following the tragic deaths of three children and a Rabbi in Toulouse, France, there have been threats to the Chief Rabbi and Jewish community in Lyon and increased attacks on Jewish students throughout France. We appreciate that French government officials, including the Prime Minister, have made statements recently condemning anti-Semitism. In Hungary, Holocaust memorials and a Jewish cemetery have been defaced. We remain concerned that efforts by the Hungarian government to memorialize fascist ideologues and leaders of World War II who were responsible for crimes of the Holocaust in Hungary contribute to a climate in which anti-Semitism thrives. There have been a number of anti-Semitic incidents in Malmo, Sweden, including another incident just last week. We welcome the rejection of anti-Semitic incidents and language by Sweden’s Minister of Integration, other cabinet-level ministers. Public condemnation of anti-Semitic remarks and actions by national political and religious leaders remains the single most important means of combating this old evil.
Anti-Semitism does not exist in isolation from other forms of intolerance and hatred. It is our experience that when one form of hatred goes unchecked, so do others. Our country continues to mourn the six Americans who senselessly lost their lives to a white supremacist at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin in August. We are greatly alarmed by this tragedy and others in the OSCE region that have been driven by hate, including the murder of an Iraqi migrant in Greece, the death of two Senegalese migrants in Italy, and discovery of an underground neo-Nazi cell in Germany to which at least ten murders have been attributed over the course of a decade.
We remain deeply disturbed by the public beating of a gay rights activist in Ukraine and urge the authorities there to bring the perpetrators to justice. We are gravely concerned that increasing restrictions on fundamental freedoms and human rights across the OSCE region are especially directed at lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered persons. In the United States, in 1998, a young man named Matthew Shepard was killed because he was gay. As a result, we passed comprehensive hate crimes legislation which increases the penalties for those who attack individuals on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, and other such categories. As Secretary Clinton has clearly said, every individual deserves to live with dignity, and LGBT rights are human rights.
Several incidents during world sporting events underscore the need for concrete follow-up to the Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting on “Combating Racism, Intolerance, and Discrimination in Society Through Sport.” Despite anti-racism efforts by the Union of European Football Association, racial epithets and monkey noises accosted an Italian player of Ghanaian ancestry, a Czech player of Ethiopian ancestry, and others during Euro 2012. An Italian player also made homophobic remarks at a press conference and German fans displayed a neo-Nazi banner at a game. Football fans in the Netherlands, Poland, and Ukraine shouted anti-Semitic slogans and made Nazi salutes. Swiss and Greek athletes were expelled from the Olympics for tweeting racist remarks referring to Asians and African migrants, respectively. We urge participating States to work with sports organizers and team owners to implement diversity and inclusion measures as recommended by U.S. Ambassador to Ireland and Chair of the American National Football League’s diversity committee, Daniel Rooney, at a U.S.-sponsored side event during the Supplementary Meeting. For many children, sport remains a singular activity through which they mature and develop lifelong views. We should not underestimate either its negative potential if allowed to be a vessel for bigotry or its positive potential to foster tolerance.
Moderator, the fight against racism is a lot like the struggle to build a democracy – you are never really finished. In certain cases, a measure of justice is sometimes a long time coming. We welcome the convictions this year in the United Kingdom in the 1993 murder of Stephen Lawrence in a racially motivated attack. For our part, for more than 50 years, the Department of Justice has been instrumental in bringing justice to some of our country’s most horrific civil rights era crimes. These crimes occurred during a terrible time in our nation’s history when all too often crimes were not fully investigated or prosecuted or evidence was ignored by juries because of the color of the victims’ skin. The Department of Justice believes that racially motivated murders from the civil rights era constitute some of the greatest blemishes upon our history. Since 2006, the Department of Justice has intensified efforts to investigate and prosecute murders from our civil rights era. Although legal and other challenges have limited the number of prosecutions ultimately brought, these efforts have nevertheless resulted in important convictions, and they have also helped bring closure to many families.
We commend the work of ODIHR for its recent efforts to address racism in the region, including holding the OSCE’s first “Roundtable on the contemporary forms of racism and xenophobia affecting People of African Descent in the OSCE region,” and related capacity building training and HDIM side event. We also applaud the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s July 2012 adoption of the resolution “Addressing Racism and Xenophobia Affecting People of African Descent in the OSCE region.”
We commend Belgium’s leadership on promoting tolerance towards LGBT persons. At the same time, we remain concerned by laws and policies biased against Muslims such as the ban on head coverings and the Flemish Integration Minister’s “starter kit” for Moroccan migrants. We welcome the collaborative meetings with other multilateral organizations focused on implementing ODIHR’s “Guidelines for Educators on Countering Intolerance and Discrimination” against Muslims and favorably note the United Kingdom’s Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks public online support service.
In light of the Wisconsin murders, we also remain concerned by the high number of hate crimes and discrimination against Sikhs, in our country and elsewhere. We encourage participating States to increase outreach to this and other vulnerable communities. We also bring your attention to a useful model in combating racial and religious profiling called ‘FlyRights’ – a mobile application released by a Sikh human rights organization in April that assists our government by allowing people to report real-time instances of racial profiling at airports. We also await the findings of the first French racial profiling lawsuit.
We are gravely concerned at the growing phenomena of legislation that severely restricts the fundamental freedoms of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered persons in the OSCE region, including laws in Russia and Moldova.
With the persistence of hate crimes and other forms of prejudice, we urge participating States to implement all the OSCE commitments and specifically Ministerial Decision 9/09 on Combating Hate Crimes. A single act of hate can cause devastation which reverberates through families, communities and places of worship, and throughout the entire nation. In 2009, the U.S. passed its hate crime statutes which offered powerful tools for combating hate and violence, so that all of our citizens can live free of fear from being targeted because of the color of their skin, the religion they practice, or who they love. The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 gave the United States, for the first time, a federal law that criminalizes violence motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation, gender identity, gender, or disability. The United States is proud to be an ardent supporter of ODIHR’s important work against hate crimes.
Finally, Moderator, we remain extremely concerned by violent extremists in Greece, the Netherlands, and Hungary, as well as in our own country and elsewhere in the region. We believe the potential for copycat crimes based on the massacre in Norway and the Sikh temple murders is high, as demonstrated by the recent arrest of a Breivik sympathizer in the Czech Republic. We welcome the Irish Chairmanship’s plans for a tolerance Ministerial Decision and urge that it include a clear strategy for monitoring participating States’ implementation of related commitments and boosting anti-discrimination and diversity training in government, civil society, and the private sector.
Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you, Special Representative Fernandez for your briefing. Before I begin, I’d like to congratulate Guatemala on assuming the Presidency of the Security Council for the first time.
Last February, the United States led a Security Council mission to Haiti. This Council witnessed firsthand the great strides that the Haitian people are making in rebuilding their country following the devastating earthquake. But we also came away with serious concerns – concerns we expressed at our debate last March. At that time, political gridlock threatened Haiti’s stability and progress. The Prime Minister resigned after only four months in office. Relations between the executive and legislative branches of government had deteriorated. The appointment of key officials and important constitutional amendments were stalled. Election planning lagged. Both in Haiti and in this chamber, the Security Council called on Haiti’s political leaders to set aside their disparate interests and come together for the sake of the nation.
Seven months later, Haiti’s future looks more promising.
As Secretary Clinton noted at the Haiti Partners Ministerial last week, the country is starting to move forward. Haiti’s political leaders are showing a willingness to cooperate and put the Haitian people first. It’s imperative that they continue to do so. On May 14, the Haitian parliament ratified a new Prime Minister. Then on June 19, President Martelly published a series of constitutional amendments that strengthen democracy and the rule of law in Haiti. These amendments pave the way towards an independent judiciary under a Superior Judicial Council and mandate the formation of a Permanent Electoral Council (CEP). We look forward to providing support for the Superior Judicial Council, as well as the final installation of the CEP, so that long overdue elections can proceed. The Government of Haiti is also tackling gender inequality with a new constitutional requirement that women hold at least 30 percent of government positions. We welcome the possibility that many more Haitian women will now be able to shape the future of their country.
On security, the Government of Haiti has assumed greater responsibility for supporting the Haitian National Police (HNP) with increased financial resources for the HNP and a deeper commitment to security and justice sector reform. The Government-hosted police summit in July endorsed a five-year national development plan for the HNP that aims to boost its size and quality. For the HNP to play its rightful role in protecting the people of Haiti and enabling the country’s development, sustained support by the Government and the international community for this development plan is essential. This must include greater attention to police recruitment, training, and combating sexual and gender-based violence. Ensuring that the HNP has sufficient personnel and the resources to do its critical work remains a top priority.
Improvements in security and the rule of law will create more economic opportunity for the Haitian people. The Joint Aid Coordination Mechanism, recently launched by the Prime Minister, can help ensure the alignment of donor assistance with Haitian priorities as well as the transparent and efficient use of international aid. This mechanism is an important step and deserves our support. We call on all countries who have pledged assistance to fulfill their commitments through the Joint Aid Coordination Mechanism.
As the Secretary General’s August 31 report details, Haiti has made progress since the Security Council’s debate last March in addressing the international community’s concerns. We should not forget that the presence and work of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, has been central to the country’s recovery from the earthquake and to its recent progress. The Mission has helped provide a more secure and stable environment in Haiti, strengthened the country’s institutions, protected civilians, and safeguarded human rights. The United States supports renewing the mandate of MINUSTAH for another year so that it can continue assisting the Haitian government and people to meet the challenges ahead and hasten the day when UN peacekeepers are no longer needed.
Reconfiguration and consolidation of MINUSTAH’s footprint in Haiti is a delicate balancing act that we cannot afford to get wrong. So as not to jeopardize overall security, the United States supports the Secretary-General’s recommended consolidation and partial drawdown of MINUSTAH forces from the post-earthquake surge to near pre-earthquake levels. These changes will reflect the progress Haiti has made but also enable MINUSTAH to continue executing its mandate effectively. Moving forward, we must remain mindful of the risk that drawing down too quickly could undermine gains achieved thus far. The United Nations must also ensure that MINUSTAH personnel consistently adhere to the highest standards in the performance of their work, and that any allegations of sexual misconduct are thoroughly investigated and that perpetrators are held to account. With this adjustment, the United States will consider future changes in MINUSTAH’s force level based on conditions on the ground. We look forward to a time in the not so distant future when this force will no longer be needed.
Yet, much work remains to be done in Haiti. There are, for example, far too few jobs and insufficient housing to meet the needs of Haitian families. The United States recognizes the importance of socio-economic development in cementing stability and catalyzing long-term growth. We’ve been working with the Haitian government, the Inter-American Development Bank, and other partners on a comprehensive development plan for Haiti’s northern areas that attracts investments to create jobs and spur economic development. We just signed a partnership agreement with Haiti outlining America’s contributions, under Haitian leadership, to Haiti’s national health plan for the next five years. In addition, the housing of IDPs remains a priority and forthcoming U.S. housing developments will shelter thousands.
Mr. President, Haiti is gradually moving beyond crisis-management to long-term recovery. Its democratic institutions are getting stronger, security in parts of the country has improved, and the lives of the Haitian people are brightening. The United States will remain a steadfast friend of Haiti. We are hopeful that with the continued support of MINUSTAH, the contributions of international partners, and the hard work and determination of the Haitian people, Haiti will indeed reach its full potential.
Thank you, Mr. President.
The United States welcomes the capture of the strategic port city of Kismayo by African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) peacekeepers and Somali forces. Al-Shabaab’s departure from Kismayo demonstrates continued momentum by pro-government forces against this terrorist organization. It is clear that al-Shabaab’s extremist views and violent tactics have no future in a modern Somalia that is seeking to rebuild after more than two decades of conflict.
The United States calls on all forces present in and around Kismayo to ensure full respect for international human rights and humanitarian law. We urge rapid establishment of an inclusive political framework to ensure the city is governed in the interest of all its citizens and of other Somalis who depend on its port.
The United States commends the important achievements of the Human Rights Council in promoting and protecting human rights during its recently concluded 21st session. Early in the session, the United States, together with a cross-regional core group comprising the Czech Republic, Indonesia, Lithuania, the Maldives, Mexico, and Nigeria, presented a resolution on the rights of freedom of association and assembly. The resolution, which passed by consensus with more than 60 co-sponsors, reaffirms the importance of respect for the rights of peaceful association and assembly as essential components of democracy. It underscores the key role civil society plays in promoting and protecting civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights and the crucial role of the Human Rights Council in addressing increasing threats to civil society. The resolution calls upon States to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, a mandate that was established two years ago through a U.S.-led resolution.
The Council also maintained its strong pressure on the Assad regime in Syria, adopting its fifth resolution on that country this year with leadership from Morocco, Qatar, and other members of the Arab Group. The United States was proud to co-sponsor the resolution, which renewed the mandate of the Syria Commission of Inquiry (COI) and enables the COI to continue its important work documenting widespread and systematic crimes against the people of Syria.
We also applaud the African Group for its leadership on a resolution on the human rights situation in the Republic of Mali, the Council’s second resolution on Mali this year. Adopted by consensus, the resolution condemns human rights abuses and violations throughout the country and renews the Council’s call for an immediate end of all human rights violations and acts of violence and destruction of cultural and religious sites.
We are also pleased that the Council, with the African Group’s leadership, adopted a resolution that renewed and strengthened the mandate of the Independent Expert on Sudan. The resolution makes clear that the Independent Expert must have unimpeded access to all parts of society and all areas of the country, including Darfur, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile and must be able to report findings without hindrance. Sudan’s human rights record is one of persistent abuse, including recent attacks on civilians in Darfur, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile provinces, and includes severe restrictions on peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. We appreciate the attention this resolution will bring to these abuses as well as the threats facing demonstrators, civil society, and journalists.