(As prepared for delivery at the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting)
Thank you, Mr. Moderator.
It is an honor and a pleasure to come to Warsaw for the annual Human Dimension Implementation Meeting. I firmly believe that the OSCE’s comprehensive approach to security, the human and democratic values at the core of the Helsinki process, and OSCE’s recognition of the vital role of civil society—all are essential to shaping a peaceful and prosperous future not only for the men and women of the OSCE region, but for people all around the world. We are open to engage with our Mediterranean Partners as others have mentioned.
The United States of America values the annual Human Dimension Implementation Meeting as a unique forum where fifty-six countries set aside two weeks to discuss the whole range of OSCE human dimension commitments, including important issues relating to human rights and fundamental freedoms, democratic development, the rule of law, combating trafficking in persons, advancing tolerance, combating hatred and discrimination, and addressing the rights of persons belonging to religious and ethnic minorities. Over the last 36 years, the OSCE has become the place where governments and NGOs meet to raise concerns about issues in the Human Dimension with openness and directness that remains uncommon in most other multilateral settings.
This 2011 HDIM follows an eventful year for the Helsinki process. In 2010, we commemorated the 35th anniversary of the signing of the historic Helsinki Final Act. We remembered the 20th anniversary of the Copenhagen Document that raised to a remarkable new level the Human Dimension commitments on which our implementation review is now based. We recalled as well the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Paris Charter, the second summit in the Helsinki process and the one which created an institutional framework for our multilateral cooperation through path-breaking institutions like ODIHR. And, in December of last year, the OSCE held a summit in Astana, Kazakhstan, the sixth in the Helsinki process and the first in over a decade.
At Astana, the participating States, including those that joined the OSCE in the post-Soviet period, reaffirmed in the Summit’s Commemorative Declaration the principles of Helsinki and all the commitments made to date. All of us also reaffirmed unequivocally that human rights are not solely a domestic issue, but also a matter of “direct and legitimate” interest to other States.
Reaffirmation, of course, is not enough. The OSCE must continue to address serious problems of implementation, so that our words become deeds in daily practice throughout the OSCE region. The annual HDIM provides us with an indispensible forum for identifying obstacles to implementation as well as practical approaches for overcoming them.
All countries, including the United States, have room for improvement in living up to our OSCE commitments and all participating States have a responsibility to improve, and stand accountable for our actions. The United States is ready to engage in principled discussion here at the HDIM and to work constructively with fellow participating States now and throughout the year to advance implementation objectives in the Human Dimension. We will, however, reject any efforts that serve to weaken or obstruct the OSCE, its principles and institutions, and by so doing, undermine OSCE’s ability to continue to act as a history-making force for peaceful, democratic change.
The OSCE has not been merely a reflection of the great post-Soviet geopolitical changes. The OSCE’s comprehensive concept of linking security among states to respect for human rights within states—and the citizens monitoring movements that the Helsinki process inspired—helped create and shape the new reality in Europe and Eurasia.
If one compares conditions for human rights and democracy in 1975 to those in 2011, change across the OSCE region has been dramatic, but progress over the past 36 years has not been steady or even. At the Helsinki Accord’s10th anniversary in Helsinki in 1985, for example, foreign ministers noted that the overall human rights performance in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe had worsened so much in a decade, including with the incarceration or exile of members of Helsinki monitoring groups, that the future of the Helsinki process was itself in jeopardy. The Final Act’s 20th anniversary in 1995, the first year the process was officially an organization, fell only weeks after the massacre at Srebrenica, the first genocide in Europe since World War II, and easily the single greatest violation of Helsinki’s principles and provisions to occur since their adoption.
In both cases, participating States saw the link between massive human rights violations and their own sense of security. The participating States addressed the problems in the 1980s by insisting on implementation before accepting new commitments, and in the 1990s, the participating States developed specific response tools for the organization, including field activity like the missions deployed in the Western Balkans.
The United States is determined that the OSCE will continue to find ways to respond creatively and effectively to contemporary challenges to human dignity and security. Let me start by highlighting some of the current institutional challenges we face in the OSCE that require a principled response, and then I will highlight a number of serious implementation concerns within the OSCE region.
As we begin this meeting, we are pleased that consensus was finally achieved on the agenda before us, but we remain dismayed that some countries tried to renege on the consensus decision on the amount of time set aside for this HDIM. In future discussions on the HDIM modalities, the United States will hold firm on retaining the aspects of this meeting which make it so useful. We will strongly resist any attempts to curtail the time set aside for HDIM discussions or to back away from existing principles, commitments, modalities and precedents governing NGO access and participation at the HDIM.
Belarus closed the OSCE Office in Minsk by refusing to renew the office’s mandate, and denied permission for the OSCE Representative for Freedom of the Media to visit the country. Belarus did not agree to the invocation of the Moscow Mechanism initiated within the OSCE in response to its flagrant human rights violations, and it denied permission for the rapporteur chosen under the mechanism to visit the country to assess the situation firsthand. A German parliamentarian representing the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly was also denied permission to visit in order to attend the trial of a former presidential candidate jailed in connection with the notorious December 2010 post-election crackdown, although other OSCE observers did attend some of the trials.
Kazakhstan failed to fully implement the commitments on domestic reform it had made in 2007 in Madrid upon receiving the Chairmanship for 2010, key promises that helped galvanize consensus on its chairmanship. Inconsistent with its role as the host of the first OSCE summit in more than a decade, the government of Kazakhstan has kept human rights activists, including Yevgeniy Zhovtis, in prison through trials that lacked due process, adopted measures in a one-party parliament giving the current president continued power and immunity from prosecution for life, and held a poorly-conducted snap presidential election following an attempt to push through a referendum to obviate future elections for the incumbent. On net, 2010 was a year of missed opportunities for reform in Kazakhstan.
Future Chairs-in-Office should examine their own human rights and democratic practices carefully, even as they press others to abide by the democratic norms of the OSCE. In this context, I urge the Ukrainian authorities to address the democratic backsliding many see in their country well in advance of their turn as Chairman-in-Office in 2013. Our current Chair has provided an excellent example, addressing politically complicated domestic problems while tenaciously working against third dimension violations by others and not bending to threats against the Chair in the process.
In response to the ethnic violence which erupted in the southern parts of Kyrgyzstan in June 2010, the OSCE had difficulty garnering consensus on a small police assistance mission aimed at helping build confidence among different ethnic groups–largely because the proposal was intentionally misportrayed and misused inside Kyrgyzstan for domestic political reasons. Although a more locally palatable mission was eventually deployed, its effectiveness was undercut, and its future remains unclear. The OSCE also joined other international bodies and national governments in supporting the request of that government for an Independent International Commission of Inquiry, led by former Finnish parliamentarian and dedicated OSCE advocate Kimmo Kiljunen. His commission undertook a detailed and objective investigation of what had transpired in and around the southern cities of Osh and Jalalabad, and we appreciate that the government of Kyrgyzstan enabled the Commission’s work. The report documented widespread and systematic targeting of the local ethnic Uzbek population that could rise to the level of crimes against humanity, in addition to severe abuses of human rights. Alarmingly, the Commission of Inquiry report found that abuses against ethnic Uzbeks were continuing; such practices continue even today, most often in the form of arbitrary police detention and abuse to extort money.
We continue to urge the government in Bishkek to hold accountable those responsible for crimes, to ensure that continuing abuses by law enforcement stop immediately, and to follow-up on the recommendations of the report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry. The recommendation of the Kyrgyz parliament to ban the respected chair of the Commission of Inquiry from entering Kyrgyzstan was not helpful, nor in line with the spirit of commitments to ensure justice for human rights abuses through full and transparent accounting of events. We understand that leaders of the Kyrgyz parliament have since shown some willingness to resolve the matter more amicably in discussion with Mr. Kiljunen, and we hope to learn whether the parliament’s recommendation has been rescinded. We have appreciated the willingness of the government of Kyrgyzstan to take the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry seriously, including co-sponsoring a resolution with us in the UN Human Rights Council to provide for technical assistance and cooperation with the international community to improve human rights practices. The OSCE should continue to support the Commission of Inquiry’s recommendations, urge further action aimed at reconciliation and accountability for human rights abuses in Kyrgyzstan, and support and monitor the work of the special commission to be set up by the government of Kyrgyzstan to implement the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry and similar reports. We also hope that the work of the Community Security Initiative on policing will continue next year.
The Russian Federation has often hindered the work of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights by restricting international observation of Russian elections in 2007 and 2008, and by trying to subject the conclusions of field observers to the approval of diplomats in Vienna. More broadly, we hope Moscow will support the re-establishment of a status-neutral OSCE mission in Georgia, including South Ossetia. Russia also refuses to work for consensus on the draft OSCE Convention on legal personality and privileges and immunities, demanding instead a “Charter” that could weaken the organization’s institutional framework and re-open established OSCE commitments. These commitments were undertaken freely by all of us. As December 4 Duma elections approach, I call on the Russian government to adhere fully to its OSCE commitments in all dimensions.
Mr. Moderator, beyond the challenges to OSCE institutions, missions and processes that I have described, let me now review implementation problems within the OSCE region, which remain concerns. Advocates of human rights, democracy, and labor who seek to help their fellow citizens know and act upon their rights are targeted for persecution, even murder, in some participating States. Laws are wielded like political weapons against those who expose abuses or express disagreement with official policies and practices. Judicial independence and the rule of law have yet to be established or fully respected in practice. NGOs are subjected to increasing legal restrictions and burdensome administrative measures that impede their peaceful work, reflecting a disturbing global phenomenon. There are human rights and humanitarian aspects of protracted conflicts that must be addressed as essential elements of settlement and reconciliation processes.
Media—particularly independent media—are under pressure to be silent or to self-censor. For practicing their profession, journalists are victims of brutal, sometimes deadly, attacks, often carried out with complete impunity. Countries in the OSCE region are also part of a growing global trend by governments to restrict Internet Freedom, and thus the exercise of freedoms of expression, association and assembly via new media. Democratic development is uneven across the OSCE region. Not all elections meet OSCE’s standards. Not all officials and government institutions operate in an accountable and transparent manner.
The divide that concerns us is not geographical and we should not be tempted to cast our challenges in terms of east and west. The OSCE and this HDIM, must be concerned with gaps between commitments and practice and we must address these gaps wherever they occur forthrightly, with political will and in a spirit of cooperation. Looking all across the OSCE, community, for example, we see intolerance and hate crimes against religious and ethnic minorities, including Roma and Sinti. Violence against women and assaults on individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity are widespread problems. People with disabilities experience discrimination and tend to be relegated to the margins of society. The OSCE region is both a source and a destination for human trafficking. Men, women and children are forced into servitude within its borders.
For our part, the United States has been, and will be, responsive to concerns raised by other participating States and NGOs about our performance in the Human Dimension. We will continue to engage on this here in Warsaw and elsewhere. My government realizes that a failure to acknowledge and correct the shortcomings in its own record would limit our ability to press other countries to acknowledge and correct theirs.
Finally, let me welcome and encourage the non-governmental organizations among us to contribute vigorously to these HDIM discussions. I can assure you that no other government represented here supports your participation in the HDIM and the OSCE more than the United States. President Obama and Secretary Clinton have made support and defense of civil society a global foreign policy priority, and we see our work in OSCE as integral to that effort.
OSCE was the first regional organization to recognize the importance of civil society and provide for NGO participation in its proceedings. Secretary Clinton made a special point of holding a Town Hall with civil society groups in Astana during the OSCE Summit, and we will continue to champion and defend NGO involvement at the Human Dimension Implementation Meetings and other meetings of the OSCE.
In closing, Mr./Madam Moderator, my delegation and I look forward to joining our fellow OSCE States and the civil society representatives who take part in these proceedings as together we address the Human Dimension, the principles that animate it, the challenges that confront it, and what all of us can and must to defend and advance it.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
On this 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, we remember that 9/11 was not only an attack on the United States, it was an attack on the world and on the humanity and hopes that we all share.
We remember that among the nearly 3,000 innocent people lost that day were hundreds of citizens from more than 90 countries, including 20 OSCE participating States. They were men and women, young and old, of many races and many faiths. On the eve of this solemn anniversary, we join with their families and their nations in honoring their memory.
We remember with gratitude how ten years ago the world came together as one. Around the globe, entire cities came to a standstill for moments of silence. People offered their prayers in churches, mosques, synagogues and other places of worship. Those of us in the United States will never forget how people in every corner of the world stood with us in solidarity in candlelight vigils and among the seas of flowers placed at our embassies.
We remember that in the weeks after 9/11, we acted as one international community. As part of a broad coalition, we drove al Qaeda from its training camps in Afghanistan, toppled the Taliban, and gave the Afghan people a chance to live free from terror.
As an international community, we have shown that terrorists are no match for the strength and resilience of our citizens. We have been clear that the United States is not, nor will it ever be, at war with Islam. Rather, with allies and partners we are united against al Qaeda, which has attacked dozens of countries and killed tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children—the vast majority of them Muslims. This week, we remember all the victims of al Qaeda and the courage and resilience with which their families and fellow citizens have persevered, from the Middle East to Europe, from Africa to Asia.
Working together, we have disrupted al Qaeda plots, eliminated Osama bin Laden and much of his leadership, and put al Qaeda on the path to defeat. Meanwhile, people across the Middle East and North Africa are showing that the surest path to justice and dignity is the moral force of nonviolence, not mindless terrorism and violence. It is clear that violent extremists are being left behind and that the future belongs to those who want to build, not destroy.
We have made clear that all nations and people seeking a future of peace and prosperity will have a partner in the United States. In the Arab world and beyond, we will stand up for the dignity and universal rights of all human beings. Around the world, we will continue the hard work of pursuing peace, promoting the development that lifts people from poverty, and advancing the food security, health and good governance that unleashes the potential of citizens and societies.
Mr. Chairman, the events of 9/11 also changed this organization. It spurred us to create new structures and new tools within the OSCE, such as the Action against Terrorism Unit and the Tolerance and Non-Discrimination Department, in order to more effectively address threats to our security in the 21st century, while protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms. It led to agreement on a new generation of OSCE commitments, not only in the field of counter-terrorism, but also in the human dimension. We in the OSCE embraced one of the most important lessons learned from the events of 9/11, namely the importance of fostering tolerance among disparate groups and faiths.
Those who attacked us on 9/11 attacked us all. They hoped to drive a wedge between the United States and the rest of the world. They failed. On the eve of this 10th anniversary, we are united with our friends and partners in remembering all those we have lost in this struggle. In their memory, we reaffirm the spirit of partnership and mutual respect that is needed to realize a world where all people live in dignity, freedom and peace.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ambassador Kelly’s Response to the Report by the Head of the OSCE Presence in Albania Ambassador Eugen Wollfarth
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The United States joins in welcoming Ambassador Wollfarth to the Permanent Council, and we thank you for your comprehensive report.
We congratulate the people of Albania for their recent achievements, most notably the opening of the Schengen area to Albanian citizens in December 2010. The United States and Albania enjoy excellent relations, and we are committed to the further strengthening of ties between our governments and peoples.
We commend the work of the Presence in Albania in partnership with the Government of Albania, Albanian institutions and NGOs, the U.S. Embassy in Tirana, and the EU. The Presence played a key stabilizing role in the aftermath of both the violent events in January and the contested municipal elections in May. It is clear that the efforts of the Presence have helped promote greater trust and respect between the Albanian people and their political structures.
The U.S. Government remains concerned about the effects of the political stalemate which continued in the wake of May’s municipal elections, further delaying work needed to advance Albania’s EU candidacy aspirations. We therefore commend the step taken by the Socialist Party (SP) on September 5 to rejoin the Assembly and its stated commitment to move the political process forward.
We urge the SP to fulfill this commitment through full and active participation in Parliament and similarly call on the ruling coalition to create a more inclusive political climate. It is imperative that all sides of the political debate remember that their first responsibility is to the citizens of Albania. We urge them to move past historical divisions in order to ensure a responsible government.
Additionally, we are concerned that corruption remains problematic. We are heartened by the alignment of national legislation with international anti-corruption obligations as well as the introduction of electronic procurement systems. These are tangible steps in the right direction, and we encourage the Presence to continue to aid institutions in implementing this progressive legislation. We agree with you, Mr. Ambassador, that the fight against corruption can only succeed when no side uses the issue for partisan gain.
We also note the progress Albania is making in fighting organized crime, combating trafficking in human beings, and establishing gender equality. We are particularly pleased that the national strategy on gender equality and eradication of domestic violence was adopted and that the National Council on Gender Equality was established. We encourage further inclusion of civil society into the arena of policy formation in order to instill a sense of faith in the political system among the Albanian people.
The Presence in Albania plays a significant role in the promotion of democratization and the Rule of Law and clearly serves as a platform for dialogue among diverse parties. With the election of a President set for 2012 and parliamentary elections for 2013, it is crucial that the Presence continue its excellent work in capacity building for democratic institutions, in promoting the inclusion of civil society and in providing support for electoral reform. We urge the Government of Albania to maintain its close cooperation with the OSCE Presence. The United States is fully committed to assisting Albania to sustain a fully-functional democracy.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
В ответ на выражения озабоченности со стороны моих белорусских коллег в связи с конкретными решениями о санкциях, объявленными моим правительством нынешним летом, следует отметить, что Соединенные Штаты в своих отношениях с Беларусью неуклонно проводят ясную и последовательную политику. Повышенное уважение к демократии и правам человека является главным условием улучшения двусторонних отношений. Мы, так же, как многие другие, надеялись, что президентские выборы в Беларуси в декабре 2010 года будут соответствовать международным стандартам.
К сожалению, как было отмечено в докладе БДИПЧ, выборы не были проведены на уровне международных стандартов. Немедленно вслед за этими выборами, прошедшими с нарушениями, правительство Беларуси развязало широкую кампанию репрессий с арестами, судебными процессами и тюремными приговорами в отношении участников мирных акций протеста, состоявшихся после выборов. Как Соединенные Штаты, так и Европейский союз считают арестованных политическими заключенными.
Мне также хотелось бы процитировать доклад, подготовленный докладчиком ОБСЕ по Беларуси, который независимым образом установил, что события, развернувшиеся после декабрьских выборов, указывают на “серьезность, длительность и масштаб грубых и систематических нарушений прав человека… Под некоторыми юридическими завесами нет ни независимого правосудия, ни законности”.
По следам этих событий Соединенные Штаты и Европейский союз ввели в январе ограничения на поездки, заморозили активы и наложили санкции на белорусских должностных лиц и организаций. Продолжающиеся репрессии и лишение свободы политических заключенных побудили Соединенные Штаты в августе ввести дополнительные санкции, как отметили мои белорусские коллеги.
Политика Соединенных Штатов по сей день остается незыблемой: мы возобновляем наш призыв к немедленному и безусловному освобождению всех политических заключенных. 1 декабря белорусское правительство признало в Астане, что повышенное уважение к демократии и правам человека является залогом прогресса страны и ее граждан.
Мои белорусские коллеги сослались на ряд международных документов, в том числе на Хельсинкский Заключительный акт и его отношение к реализации государствами своих суверенных прав. Хочу напомнить всем присутствующим, что наши лидеры в Астане категорически и безоговорочно подтвердили обязательства всех государств-участников в области человеческого измерения, которые требуют от них проявления прямой и законной озабоченности в отношении всех вопросов, не входящих в сферу их внутренних дел.
Мы призываем правительство Беларуси выйти из добровольной изоляции и соблюдать права человека и основные свободы всех своих граждан.
Благодарю вас, господин председатель.
In response to the concerns raised by my Belarusian colleague in connection with the specific sanctions decisions my government announced over the summer, the United States has consistently maintained a clear and consistent policy in our relationship with Belarus. Enhanced respect for democracy and human rights are central to improving bilateral relations. We, along with many others, had hoped that the December 2010 presidential elections in Belarus would meet international standards.
Unfortunately, as ODIHR noted in its report, the elections failed to meet international standards. Immediately following the flawed elections, the Government of Belarus conducted a large-scale crackdown that included arrests, trials and prison sentences for individuals who participated in peaceful post-election protests. Both the United States and the European Union consider those arrested to be political prisoners.
I would also cite the report of the OSCE Rapporteur on Belarus, who independently found that the events since the December elections indicate the “seriousness, duration and scale of gross and systematic human rights violations… Beneath some legal niceties, there is neither independent justice, nor rule of law in Belarus.”
Those events led to the imposition in January of U.S. and European Union travel restrictions, asset freezes and sanctions against Belarusian officials and entities. The continuing crackdown and incarceration of political prisoners led the United States to impose additional sanctions in August as my Belarusian colleague has pointed out.
U.S. policy remains firm today: we reiterate our call for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners. On December 1st in Astana, the Government of Belarus acknowledged that enhanced respect for democracy and human rights are essential to the progress of the country and its citizens.
My Belarusian colleague made reference to a number of international instruments including the Helsinki Final Act and its relationship to the exercise of sovereign rights of states. I remind all of us here that our leaders in Astana “categorically and irrevocably reaffirmed” that the Human Dimension commitments “are of direct and legitimate concern of all participating States and do not belong to the internal affairs to the State concerned.”
We urge the Government of Belarus to end its self-imposed isolation and uphold the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all its citizens.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Statement on the Imprisonment of Natalya Sokolova, the Blocking of Websites and the Transfer of Prison Authority in Kazakhstan
The United States wishes to register its concern regarding several events that occurred in Kazakhstan during the OSCE Summer Recess. The first is the August 8 conviction and sentencing to six years imprisonment of Natalya Sokolova, the lawyer for a trade union formed by employees of an oil company in western Kazakhstan. Sokolova’s trial appears to have been marred by violations of procedural due process that call the verdict into question. The six-year sentence Sokolova received for inciting social discord and organizing illegal gatherings is particularly harsh. Credible reports indicate that the presiding judge refused to admit into evidence video recordings in support of Sokolova’s defense and denied her motions to summon witnesses. We urge the government of Kazakhstan to review the case and to take appropriate steps to remedy the procedural inadequacies.
Secondly, Mr. Chairman, the United States is concerned by new reports of numerous web sites being blocked in Kazakhstan, including the popular LiveJournal and LiveInternet blogging communities. A court in Kazakhstan said the sites – widely used by the Russian language community – were propagating terrorism and inciting hatred, although it failed to provide details or request that they remove any offending material. Wholesale blocking of websites raises serious questions, and we appreciate Prime Minister Karim Masimov’s promise to review these recent incidents. We urge Kazakhstan to ensure that any such steps limiting the free flow of information online are in full compliance with OSCE commitments.
Finally, Mr. Chairman, we take this opportunity also to note the August 4 announcement that responsibility for the Kazakhstani prison system has been transferred from the Ministry of Justice to the Ministry of the Interior. We hope that the Ministry of Interior will work closely with Kazakhstan’s civil society to ensure humane conditions and treatment for prisoners. We note that progress has been made in improving conditions for prisoners in Kazakhstan during the last several years and today express our firm expectation and sincere hope that, in keeping with Kazakhstan’s OSCE commitments, the pace of such improvements will not only continue under the authority of the Interior Ministry, but accelerate as well.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Like the European Union and other participating states, the United States does not recognize the legitimacy or the results of the August 26th so-called “elections” in the Abkhazia region of Georgia. We reiterate our support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.
We again urge Russia to fulfill all of its obligations under the 2008 ceasefire agreement, including the withdrawal of forces to pre-conflict positions and free access for humanitarian assistance to the territories.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ambassador Kelly’s Response to the Report by the Head of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo Ambassador Werner Almhofer
The United States joins in welcoming Ambassador Almhofer back to the Permanent Council and we thank the Ambassador for his comprehensive report.
Given recent events, it is clear that major transitions are still underway in Kosovo. These transitions present challenges for the international community and demand that our respective roles continue to adapt and evolve. It is also clear that the OSCE Mission in Kosovo plays an important role in engaging communities, supporting democratic development, and promoting a functional state, including in the north of Kosovo.
We commend the work done by the Mission in partnership with Kosovo institutions and NGOs and are confident that this will continue to foster transparency and accountability through good governance. We are pleased to hear of the positive work done on the ground by OMIK field operations during and after the most recent incidents on Kosovo’s border with Serbia. The staff has gained the trust of both the people and the government, a notable success.
I visited your offices in Pristina and Mitrovica and I was deeply impressed by your staff’s dedication and hard work.
Unfortunately, the situation in northern Kosovo is unsustainable. We need to support OMIK’s great work in the field and call for a renewed commitment to community and confidence building efforts among different ethnic groups throughout the country. The work of the Mission in the areas of democratization and communities remains critical to future development. We would advocate increased coordination between OMIK and OMIS in Belgrade to that end. Both OSCE Missions have strong relationships with government institutions as well as various local communities. This is the OSCE’s value added in the region, and we should capitalize on this strength.
The engagement of the ethnic Serb community in Kosovo’s politics and municipal administrations is a critical element for the development of a prosperous, multi-ethnic, democratic state in which minority communities can build a sustainable future through improved local governance and services. Therefore, we strongly support the resumption of the EU-facilitated dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade and remain hopeful that they can establish a condition of positive reciprocity at the border through which people and goods can move freely in both directions between Kosovo and Serbia. We call on both sides, in line with their European aspirations and the economic interests of their countries and the greater region, to resolve this impasse and end their respective trade restrictions.
We expect both to work in good faith and to cooperate on resolving customs and other key practical issues that will improve the lives of people on both sides of the border and help realize both countries’ European perspectives.
On another note, we welcome the progress made by the EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) in securing the necessary personnel, facilities and equipment for its task force investigating the serious allegations contained in Special Rapporteur Dick Marty’s report to the Council of Europe. The selection of Clint Williamson as lead prosecutor, an eminently qualified and experienced prosecutor and former U.S. Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues, underscores the seriousness with which the United States and EU are approaching the task force’s work. The task force has the full support of the United States, the European Union and EU Member States. We expect a thorough investigation, conducted with transparency and with the full cooperation of local authorities. We welcome pledges made by the governments of Kosovo, Albania and Serbia to cooperate fully with the EULEX investigation.
The development of a multi-ethnic democracy in Kosovo, which protects minority rights and religious freedom, and which has government institutions that can deliver stability and prosperity for its people, is a goal that we should all support, and in our view, the Mission of the OSCE in Kosovo is an important component of the ongoing work toward this goal. The United States will continue to strongly support and assist Kosovo. Continued international engagement in Kosovo will help facilitate its integration into European and regional institutions, such as the OSCE. This will help secure the future for Kosovo and its citizens and will contribute to stability for its neighbors in Europe and the wider OSCE region.
The United States is eager to work constructively with all participating States to identify ways the OSCE can continue to contribute to Kosovo’s stability and the welfare and security of its people.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The United States warmly welcomes you back to the Permanent Council today, Representative Mijatovic. We thank you for your detailed report, evidence of your tireless dedication to advancing the cause of media freedom throughout the OSCE region. You and your staff tirelessly promote best practices, conduct valuable training exercises, and provide excellent technical advice that serves as guideposts for participating States to fulfill their commitments to media freedom.
We are pleased by the several instances of governments cooperating with your office to discuss, investigate, and address worrisome trends and policies affecting media freedom. However, your report also highlights continuing threats to media freedom within the OSCE region.
The most troubling trend continues to be violence against journalists. We continue to hear reports of violent assaults and threats of violence against journalists in the OSCE region. All too often, cases of violence against journalists go unresolved. We welcome the news from Russia of important advances in the separate murder cases of Anastasia Baburova and Anna Politkovskaya, and urge the Russian Federation to continue to address the problem of impunity for those who attack journalists. In this regard, we hope the recommendations from the Conference on Safety of Journalists, coupled with the pending catalogue of best practices, will aid all participating States in creating a safer environment for journalists. As noted by U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Melia there, “Governments bear the fundamental responsibility to ensure that journalists are free to practice their professions without interference or reprisal…and to combat violence against journalists from any quarter.”
Another troubling trend in the OSCE region is the continuing use of legal mechanisms such as tax codes, registration requirements, criminal defamation laws, and other legal or administrative obstacles on free speech in order to prosecute journalists for their work, or to punish or intimidate those with whom a government may disagree. The United States joins with you in calling for the release of all journalists imprisoned for simply exercising their right to freedom of expression. We are also disturbed by government efforts to shut down independent media outlets through law suits, disproportionate fines, confiscation of materials, and closure of printing houses.
We particularly welcome your efforts to ensure freedom of expression and association on the Internet, which is becoming an increasingly important platform for the full exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the 21st century.
In Kyrgyzstan, which has taken measures in the past year to increase media freedom, Parliament last week adopted a resolution calling for an independent news site to be blocked on the basis that it incites ethnic hatred. In fact, what will help foster ethnic reconciliation is greater availability of information, not less. Fortunately, a wide range of influential voices inside and outside governmental institutions in Kyrgyzstan have spoken out publicly against possible censorship of the media. We are glad to see that Representative Mijatovic added her voice as well.
With respect to media freedom in Tajikistan, we join you in welcoming the decision of three judges to drop their lawsuits against three independent papers. However, we are seriously concerned about the detention of and denial of counsel to BBC journalist Urunboi Usmonov who, after reporting on the arrests of religious extremists, is now imprisoned on charges of extremism. The criminal case against Asht District journalist Makhmadusuf Ismoilov, who has been jailed since October 23, 2010, goes on. Mr. Ismoilov was arrested after publishing reports alleging local government corruption. We note the lack of progress in the investigation into the violent assault on Hikmatullo Saifullozoda on February 7. We also find it troubling that the Justice Ministry forced independent newspaper Paykon to close on May 6. A high ranking Ministry of Interior official’s lawsuit against Asia Plus newspaper remains open.
We again note that your report makes no mention of Turkmenistan or recent reports that individuals associated with RFE/RL have been the targets of intimidation by Turkmen government agents apparently because of their work as, or relationship to, journalists. As we said previously, this lack of mention should not be perceived as a positive indication, but rather a reflection of the nearly complete lack of media freedom in Turkmenistan. We call upon the government of Turkmenistan to engage with your office and to take immediate steps to uphold its OSCE commitments on media freedom.
Finally, we share your concerns over the critical state of media freedom in Belarus, and call on authorities there to end the harassment of independent journalists and to take seriously its OSCE commitments.
Thank you again, Representative Mijatovic. We applaud the dedicated work of you and your staff in advancing media freedom within the OSCE. You can count our full support as you continue this critical work.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
We warmly welcome Ambassador Vollebaek back to the Permanent Council and we thank him for his comprehensive report.
The treatment of minorities is at the heart of many of Europe’s potential, current, and continuing conflicts. As you noted, your work plays a critical role in conflict prevention, particularly in providing early warning. The persistence of tension and conflict over minority issues should compel us to do even more to address not only the causes, but also the conditions that can exacerbate conflict.
This applies most urgently in the case of Kyrgyzstan. President Otunbayeva recently spoke in the Permanent Council about the ongoing challenges her country faces, which are rooted in high levels of nationalism and intolerance. We share your concerns that persistent nationalism will undermine stability in southern Kyrgyzstan, particularly during the upcoming Presidential election.
We believe that the OSCE, together with the international community, must redouble efforts to help restore rule of law and ensure the safety of all persons. We welcome your recommendations for continued OSCE engagement on understanding the June 2010 events, policy reforms affecting minority rights, and police training. We also hope to see the important work of your office to aid in the process of mediation and reconciliation desperately needed in Kyrgyzstan.
We strongly support your continued engagement in Georgia, where your efforts to call attention to the rights and needs of ethnic minorities and internally displaced persons (IDPs) are particularly important. We share your concern over the deteriorating situation in the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and continue to urge full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. We continue to call for a greater international presence throughout Georgia, to include the OSCE and other international actors.
Over the years, the situation for minority populations has generally improved as democratic norms have taken hold. Unfortunately, however, the situation for some minorities – including Roma and Sinti – has deteriorated, sometimes significantly. Protecting and promoting the human rights of Roma everywhere has long been a personal commitment for Secretary Clinton and, under the Obama Administration, it is a stated priority of the United States. Like all people, ethnic Roma should have the opportunity to live free from discrimination, enjoy equal access to education, healthcare and employment, and pursue their full potential.
We also share your concerns over persistent violations of minority rights in other OSCE states. It is clear from your report that, while definite advances have been made, there are still significant problems related to minority education in the OSCE area. The divisive education policies observed in several participating States, including restrictions on the ability of persons belonging to national minorities to have adequate opportunities to be educated in their mother tongue, are cause for concern. Such restrictions are always worrying, but particularly so when they take place in separatist areas such as Abkhazia and Transnistria, where the situation is already tense.
We agree with the High Commissioner that such restrictions have the potential to further increase tensions in the region.
Ambassador Vollebaek, your efforts play a crucial role in reducing tensions within and among states through addressing sensitive issues related to national minorities. We are encouraged by the interest expressed by the governments of a number of participating States to implement your recommendations.
We continue to support you and your team, your persistent and even-handed focus on improving education, participation by minorities in public life, the conditions of Roma and Sinti in the OSCE area, and relations between states and minorities in neighboring states with whom they share affinities.
We also look forward to continuing discussion of these issues at the upcoming Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.