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Ambassador Johnson’s remarks at the Closing Plenary of the OSCE’s Human Dimension Implementation Meeting

(As prepared for delivery at the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, Other Business at the Closing of the Plenary Session)

The United States for several years has used this agenda item to follow up on the recommendations made by the fact-finding mission resulting from the invocation of the Moscow Mechanism. In April, the Moscow Mechanism was invoked concerning Belarus. Fourteen participating States took this unusual step due to the crackdown by the Lukashenka government following the election in Belarus on December 19, 2010.

We regret the Belarusian authorities’ refusal to comply with that country’s commitments by placing obstacles to implementation of the Moscow Mechanism. Notwithstanding this unwillingness to cooperate, sole rapporteur Professor Decaux, who ultimately constituted the OSCE’s fact-finding mission, was able to meet formally and informally with OSCE institutions and numerous diplomats and members of civil society, including representatives of NGOs from Belarus. His comprehensive report illustrates the seriousness, duration and scale of gross and systematic human rights violations that have taken place since December 19, 2010.

In particular, the report documents the non-compliance of the Lukashenka government—from the December 19 elections until early May—with Belarus’s OSCE commitments in the following areas: the conduct of the December 19th elections; harassment of candidates and their relatives since the election; restrictions on freedom of association, including registration requirements for political parties, NGOs and trade unions; restrictions on freedom of expression and media, including arrests and detentions of those exercising their right to freedom of opinion as well as harassment, arrests and detention of journalists as well as searches of their homes and offices; restrictions on the freedom of movement, right to peaceful assembly, and freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention, including torture and ill treatment, and the right to a fair trial and the independence of lawyers. The government of Belarus must address the serious concerns raised in Professor Decaux’s report, and we urge the authorities to implement the recommendations.

We continue to be concerned about the situation in Turkmenistan. It has shown little progress since the Moscow Mechanism was invoked in 2003. Basic human rights and fundamental freedoms remain severely restricted. Turkmenistan remains the only OSCE participating State that officially has a one-party political system. There is virtually no space for civil society to operate. All media is tightly controlled by the government, and the Internet is censored and monitored. According to Reporters without Borders, journalists often were “summoned for questioning, threatened with prosecution, and fired from their jobs, while relatives are also exposed to the possibility of reprisals.”

We have commended Turkmenistan’s registration of the Catholic Church in 2010. However, there continue to be significant restrictions on freedom of religion. Several religious groups remain unable to register, and the government has placed restrictions on registered groups’ ability to own property and print or import religious materials. Current law prohibits foreign missionary activity and foreign religious organizations, and the private publication of religious literature. Freedom of movement also continues to be restricted.

We remain concerned about the lack of access to persons in prison, including political prisoners. Last fall, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention publicly released its opinion that the arrest and continued detention of journalists Annakurban Amanklichev and Sapardurdy Hajiyev violates international law, and that they should be released immediately. We have received no information about former civil activist Gulgeldy Annaniyazov, who was arrested in June 2008 after returning to the country from Norway, where he had received asylum. One very concrete step Turkmenistan could take that would be a clear signal of the government’s intention to move forward with reform would be to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross/Red Crescent and other independent observers’ access to prisons. Finally, as we have for the past seven years, we again request information about, and access to our former OSCE colleague, Batyr Berdiev. I last saw him in Vienna when the Austrian Foreign Minister honored him before his return to Ashgabat to take up his post as Foreign Minister in Turkmenistan. Many of us who have sat at this table have called him a friend. This organization bears a special burden to press for information about him, and access to him, since not so long ago, he was one of us.

The invocation of the Moscow mechanism remains an extraordinary measure, the use of which demonstrates extraordinary concern by a group of participating States for the situation in one of our countries. Belarus and Turkmenistan should follow-up on the recommendations made through this mechanism, and demonstrate their respect for their OSCE commitments, and, indeed, the OSCE process.


Response to the Report by Professor Emmanuel Decaux

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

In addition to subscribing fully to the statement read on behalf of the 14 invoking states, I would like to add the following:

We join in welcoming Professor Decaux to the Permanent Council as the OSCE Rapporteur for the Moscow Mechanism. We thank him for his comprehensive report documenting his fact-finding mission.

Like others at this table, the United States remains deeply concerned by the events that have taken place in Belarus since December 19, 2010.

The Moscow Mechanism Rapporteur’s report contains a number of constructive recommendations that can help Belarus better fulfill its OSCE commitments.

The OSCE and the international community should focus on the concerns raised in the report. To do so requires that we all remain engaged with the people of Belarus.

Mr. Chairman, the United States would be pleased to see closer cooperation between Belarus and the OSCE on a wide range of issues.

The government of Belarus has, on repeated occasions, declared its willingness to cooperate with the OSCE. The Belarus delegation here has repeatedly promised to present a proposed program of cooperation.

Yet, the mandate for the OSCE Office in Minsk was not extended. The Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatovic, has not been allowed to visit Belarus since the events of December 19. Likewise, a fact-finding mission by the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Working Group on Belarus was rejected and the Chair of the OSCE PA Working Group was denied a visa to observe the trials of the political prisoners. While the presence of a limited ODIHR trial monitoring team is welcomed, we believe a more meaningful OSCE presence in Belarus is needed.

Furthermore, human rights defenders from Russia and Ukraine attempting to monitor, report, and advise the Government of Belarus on the human rights situation have been targeted for expulsion or banned from reentering Belarus. Mr. Lukashenka has called for the expulsion of foreign media from Belarus, and at least one journalist from Russia has been expelled.

U.S. policy remains clear. We urge the Government of Belarus to study closely the Rapporteur’s recommendations. The OSCE, its institutions, and the international community at large are standing by to help the people of Belarus. As the Rapporteur’s report recommends, Belarus should fully implement its international commitments. Special attention should be paid to its commitments to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including media freedom, prohibiting torture, and upholding the rule of law.

Likewise, Belarus should cooperate with the OSCE on legal and judicial review. This should include review of the trials related to the events of December 19, which my government has consistently condemned. As we have said, their results should be reversed and the government should develop a judicial system based on international standards of due process.

Mr. Chairman, we once again call on the Government of Belarus to immediately and unconditionally release all political prisoners and cease continuing human rights violations against critics of the government, who remain at risk of harassment and arbitrary arrest.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


OSCE Moscow Mechanism rapporteur begins fact-finding mission regarding the post-election human rights situation in Belarus

OSCE Moscow Mechanism rapporteur begins fact-finding mission regarding the post-election human rights situation in Belarus

VIENNA, May 9, 2011 – Emmanuel Decaux, Professor of International Law at the University of Paris, began work on May 6 as the OSCE rapporteur for a mission to examine the human rights situation and implementation of OSCE commitments in Belarus following the December presidential election on December 19, 2010.

The process was launched on April 6, 2011, when 14 OSCE participating States invoked the Organization’s “Moscow Mechanism”.

The Mechanism, agreed by consensus by all 56 OSCE States, allows for deployment of an independent, impartial fact-finding mission if one State, supported by at least nine others, “considers that a particularly serious threat to the fulfilment of the provisions of the [OSCE] human dimension has arisen in another participating State”.

Professor Decaux has announced that he welcomes any information relevant to his mission. He can be reached at edecaux@u-paris.fr All sources will remain confidential.

Докладчик ОБСЕ по Московскому механизму начинает миссию по установлению фактов в отношении ситуации с правами человека после выборов в Беларуси

ВЕНА, 9 мая 2011 года – 6 мая Эммануэль Деко, профессор международного права Парижского университета, начал работу в качестве докладчика миссии ОБСЕ по изучению ситуации с правами человека и выполнению обязательств ОБСЕ в Беларуси после декабрьских президентских выборов, состоявшихся 19 декабря 2010 года.
Этот процесс начался 6 апреля 2011 года, когда 14 государств-участников ОБСЕ применили “Московский механизм” организации.

Механизм, согласованный на основе консенсуса всеми 56 государствами-участниками ОБСЕ, позволяет направить независимую, беспристрастную миссию по установлению фактов, если одно государство, при поддержке по меньшей мере девяти других государств, “считает, что возникла особенно серьезная угроза для выполнения положений человеческого измерения [ОБСЕ] в другом государстве-участнике”.

Профессор Деко объявил, что он приветствует любую информацию, относящуюся к его миссии. С ним можно связаться по электронной почте edecaux@u-paris.fr Все источники останутся конфиденциальными.


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