SECURITY & COOPERATION IN EUROPE:
U.S. HELSINKI COMMISSION
PROMOTING TOLERANCE AND UNDERSTANDING IN THE OSCE REGION: THE ROLE OF THE
RABBI ANDREW BAKER,
PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE ON COMBATING ANTI-SEMITISM,
AMBASSADOR ADIL AKHMETOV,
PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE ON COMBATING INTOLERANCE AND DISCRIMINATION AGAINST
THE HONORABLE MARIO MAURO,
PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE ON COMBATING RACISM, XENOPHOBIA AND DISCRIMINATION,
MS. FLORIANE HOHENBERG,
HEAD OF TOLERANCE AND NON-DISCRIMINATION DEPARTMENT,
OFFICE OF DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTIONS AND HUMAN RIGHTS
THE HEARING WAS HELD FROM 10:00 A.M. TO 11:55 A.M. TIME IN SVC 208/209 (CAPITOL
VISITOR CENTER), WASHINGTON, D.C., [SEN. BEN CARDIN (D-MD), CHAIRMAN, CSCE],
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 14, 2009
SEN. BEN CARDIN (D-MD): Good morning, everyone, and let me thank particularly
our guests, the three personal representatives of the OSCE Chair-in-Office for
being with us today. This is an extremely important opportunity for the
Helsinki Commission in promoting tolerance and understanding throughout the
Let me start off by saying how proud I am of the role that the United States
Helsinki Commission has played in furthering tolerance within the OSCE region.
It was our Commission that pressed very hard for the OSCE participating States
to face the issue of the rise of anti-Semitism. We promoted resolutions; we
organized special presentations at the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly meetings.
I particularly want to acknowledge my three colleagues that are here; each
played a critical role in advancing the issues in the Parliamentary Assembly
which led to action within the OSCE framework in Vienna and at the OSCE
My Co-Chair, Congressman Hastings, was very instrumentally involved in getting
other delegations to join the U.S. delegation in those efforts during the early
days. Congressman Smith was one of the leaders in promoting resolutions and
discussions with our colleagues, and Sen. Voinovich has been a true champion on
this issue, raising this at every opportunity to advance an effective strategy
to deal with the rise of anti-Semitism.
We are very pleased – as a result of this action, there were special
conferences and we were able to reach consensus on declarations. I
particularly was proud to be part of the U.S. delegation in Berlin when the
Berlin Declaration was entered into. We can point to many parts of the
consensus that was obtained in Berlin. It was a remarkable achievement to get
all 56 participating States to agree on a common declaration to fight
One clause I was particularly pleased was included was one in which the
participating States unambiguously declared that international developments and
political issues, including those in Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East
never justify any Semitism.
From our beginnings, we were able to expand the strategies against all forms of
intolerance – having follow-up meetings, developing reporting requirements so
that we could get information – I particularly would acknowledge the work that
the OSCE’s Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights did in those days
in helping us get the information necessary – and then promoting best practices
among the different states, including offering technical assistance.
We were extremely pleased with the creation of the three personal
representatives of the Chair-in-Office. So we welcome the three of you
together. Having you here at one meeting with us is a special opportunity for
the U.S. Helsinki Commission. We want you to know how important we believe
your work is. We believe it is critically important. But particularly in
these times, when international events, including the worst economic downturn
since the end of World War II puts additional pressure and importance on the
work that you do. We want you to know that we will be supportive of your
actions; we want to hear your strategies; we want to know how we can do more.
Just on a personal note, yesterday – or I guess it was the day before yesterday
– the Commission had a delegation participating in the fall meeting of the OSCE
PA, held in Greece. And some of us had a chance to visit a Roma camp on the
outskirts of Athens. If you ever need more reminders of how important the work
you do for people whose voices otherwise would not be heard, I think that visit
just underscored the importance of the work being done by OSCE to fight
Before introducing the three special representatives let me turn to my
colleagues: First, the Co-Chair of the U.S. Helsinki Commission and the former
President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, Congressman Hastings.
REP. ALCEE HASTINGS (D-FL): Thank you very much, Chairman Cardin. I am deeply
appreciative of your remarks and echo them. And in the interest of time, since
we have four presenters, I will ask that my full statement be included in the
record, and I look forward to hearing from the personal representatives on
their contributions to this effort. As you indicate, this is a particularly
unique hearing in that we have all three of the personal representatives on
tolerance here, and that doesn’t happen all the time.
I’d underscore the remarks that you made by pointing to the fact that the
Helsinki Commission has provided, and continues to provide on the issues before
us this morning, an outstanding amount of work under your leadership. In all
we have convened now nearly a dozen hearings on various aspects of intolerance
in the OSCE region. But I will leave at that and ask that my full statement be
made a part of the record.
SEN. CARDIN: Without objection. All the statements will be included in our
record today. Congressman Chris Smith, the ranking Republican.
REP. CHRIS SMITH (R-NJ): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I do want to
thank you for convening this extremely important hearing and to have four such
distinguished witnesses here today to give us their insights.
Mr. Chairman, it was the spring of 2002 that this Commission held a hearing –
began a series of hearings, in fact -- on the escalating anti-Semitic violence
in Europe, which put the fight against anti-Semitism on the OSCE’s agenda. I
too look at my three colleagues and myself – we were the ones who took this
issue up and pushed it and tried to ensure first at the Parliamentary Assembly
and then at the OSCE itself that this became a core agenda issue – combating
anti-Semitism – which then led to the other emphasis as well on the persecution
of Christians as well as Muslims.
And I do believe that we, our Commission has played a very important role in
ensuring that the focus and the scrutiny not diminish in any way and that we do
everything humanly possible to combat every form of this pernicious hate.
I do ask that my full statement be made a part of the record; I would just note
that it is disturbing that many of the participating States have yet to provide
the kind of documentation to ODIHR that they have promised over and over again.
And it’s all about implementation. We know what we have to do; we just need
to do it.
We know with the Muslims that probably one of the worst manifestations of
anti-Muslim hate was experienced in Srebrenica; we all remember the hatred
towards Muslims that was expressed there; the genocide that occurred when 8,000
men were summarily executed in the course of just a couple of days just because
they were Muslim. Those kinds of things need to be “never again.” And we need
to do all we can to build up the institutions in each participating State so
that we can hopefully not just mitigate but prevent these kinds of activities
before they even begin. So I thank you again for this hearing.
SEN. CARDIN: Thank you, Congressman Smith. Sen. Voinovich?
SEN. GEORGE VOINOVICH (R-OH): Thank you. First of all, I’d like to thank my
colleagues for inviting me here for this hearing, and I’d like to thank the
personal representatives for coming here and Ms. Hohenberg for being here today.
I think we’ve made great progress in recent years in our fight to promote
tolerance and nondiscrimination through the OSEC region. As has already been
said, the Berlin Declaration passed and we were able to get tolerance and
nondiscrimination in the core budget of ODIHR. But I believe that if we’re
going to be really successful, we must dot the i’s and cross the t’s as we aim
to achieve a more tolerant world. This means having the OSCE/ODIHR making more
extra-budgetary funding requests for tolerance and nondiscrimination projects,
and having OSCE member states answer that call.
I believe this begins with the three of you that are sitting down here and your
counterparts in ODIHR leadership in laying out a strategic plan of goals and
objectives. For example, do you feel that ODIHR Director Janez Lenar?i? and
tolerance & nondiscrimination head Ms. Hohenberg are being responsive to your
respective needs and concerns as personal representatives of the OSCE
chairman-in-office? Does each of you personally have the resources, the funds,
to carry out your respective responsibilities?
What is your candid assessment of the resources needed by the OSCE and ODIHR in
order to complete your respective goals in promoting tolerance of Jews, Muslims
and Christians throughout the OSCE region? Are the OSCE and ODIHR staff
members that you work with in Warsaw sufficient to get their work done? What
is your assessment of the personnel resources available at ODIHR?
I understand from my staff that the only way OSCE member states can provide
additional assistance to ODIHR activities is when such funds are formally
requested through an electronic extra-budgetary OSCE project request. Is this
process effective? Is the OSCE bureaucracy requesting funds for projects you
deem to be of high priority needs: for example, for police, for training for
prosecutors, for judges? And most important I think is education, education,
education. Do the countries you’re working with have the money so that they
can get information out in their respective countries about educating people in
terms of those issues that you’re concerned with?
From conversations with my good friend Rabbi Baker, I understand that there
continues to be need for financial investment as well as good data going into
OSCE’s online tolerance information system database, TANDIS, that records
incidents of intolerance in the OSCE region. How could we diplomatically
ensure that OSCE states fulfill their commitment regarding data collection, and
putting it into the electronic system? And what level of continued financial
requirement is required to ensure the success and efficacy of this electronic
Basically, what I’m hopeful for is that in the next several months of really
laying out what needs to be done and the resources you need to have to be
effective in getting your job done. Once we’ve identified that, then we can go
from there to figure out how we can try to respond to your needs. Thank you,
SEN. CARDIN: Thank you, Sen. Voinovich. Let me introduce the three special
representatives: First, Rabbi Andrew Baker, who serves as the Personal
Representative on Combating Anti-Semitism. Rabbi Baker is Director of
International Jewish Affairs at the American Jewish Committee. Since his
appointment by the Greek Chair-in-Office earlier this year, he has made country
visits to Latvia, Bosnia, Herzegovina and Spain.
Ambassador Adil Akhmetov serves as the Personal Representative on Combating
Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims. He was appointed in June. The
Ambassador is Secretary of the Committee on International Relations, Defense
and Security and a member of the Senate of Kazakhstan.
Mario Mauro serves as Personal Representative on Combating Racism, Xenophobia
and Discrimination, also focusing on Intolerance and Discrimination against
Christians and members of other Religions. A member of the European
Parliament, he is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and is a member of
the Delegation for Relations with the United States. He previously served as
one of the European Parliament’s vice presidents.
And lastly, I want to note the presence Floriane Hohenberg, Head of the
Tolerance and Nondiscrimination Department of ODIHR, who is accompanying the
personal representative on their trip to the United States and Canada. We
welcome Ms. Hohenberg as a resource during this hearing. Thank you very much
for being here.
We’ll start with Rabbi Baker.
RABBI BAKER: Sen. Cardin, thank you very much. It’s a great honor to be here
but also a pleasure to be here before you, before Congressman Hastings, Sen.
Voinovich, Congressman Smith.
I don’t know if I’m blessed or cursed with the memory of knowing how these
processes began, in going back some years now, but I do know how most of these
efforts – the existence of this department at ODIHR, the presence here of these
personal representatives – almost all of these efforts in combating intolerance
started here; started with the Helsinki Commission and efforts from Members of
Congress to push the bureaucracy, and it wasn’t easy. So when we look back, I
think there’s much we can take some pride in and, again, expressing thanks to
I also want to thank, of course, the Greek chairmanship because they’ve
afforded me this opportunity, and have really given me the freedom and the
flexibility to take up this issue. As you’ve indicated, I have already issued
three formal country visit reports, but since then I’ve also paid visits to
Romania and to Slovakia and have schedule one more visit to Hungary in
November. So this is all part of this process.
Let me, in light of that, just present a few of the main concerns in combating
anti-Semitism that have become apparent to me this year from those visits, from
discussions as well with Jewish community leaders. And I’ll present here
somewhat of an abridged version of my written testimony.
An essential element of the problem in many countries is the presence of
anti-Semitism in public discourse. It is offensive, pernicious in its own
right, but it can also contribute to a climate which poses a security threat to
Jews and to Jewish institutions. A capacity to counter this anti-Semitism is
In my testimony, I review what you have in various countries, but those
experiences show that successful prosecution, conviction of these laws tends to
be quite limited. Many European countries do have laws which restrict or
punish hate speech. They are intended to address incitement against religious
or racial hatred as it may appear in public speeches, in newspapers, in other
media, on the Internet. It includes, of course, fomenting anti-Semitism and,
in some cases, also Holocaust denial. Rarely is the problem the legislation
itself, but rather it is the infrequent and often unsuccessful record of
Putting it simply, many hate speech laws have the unintended consequences of
letting political leaders off the hook. In the United States and in other
countries with strong free speech protections, manifestations of racism, of
anti-Semitism, of other extremist views in public discourse are generally
addressed – and frankly, in many cases, can only be addressed – by strong and
swift rebukes from political and civic leaders. In this way, such hateful
speech can be marginalized, isolated.
But in countries with legislative remedies, some political leaders will refer
to the legal process as a reason or an excuse not to speak out. As we see in
practice, these legal decisions often take months. In Spain, you had two
cases; each took more than 7 years before they were actually adjudicated in a
And in the meantime, there is no clear message being delivered that such
hateful speech is unacceptable. Consider, too, that among some mainstream
political leaders, they fear the success of extremist movements. So one could
say they see calculated benefits in remaining silent or leaving this somewhat
There are also special problems with countries with of a Communist or
authoritarian past. Because all speech was once monitored and controlled,
prosecutors and judges today may be reluctant to pursue these cases of hate
speech even though laws exist on the books.
There needs to be, I think, some education here, at least within this
framework; that it’s possible to control or prosecute hate speech while still
maintaining, in all other areas, a vigorous policy of protecting free speech.
In any case, in nearly all places, anti-Semitic speech is understood to be
included within these larger categories. But virtually no penal code includes
a specific or detailed description of anti-Semitism, which means it’s not
always recognized – certainly not always recognized by prosecutors or judges or
even by official ombudsmen. I think we saw one example in the case recently in
Sweden where this Commission spoke out and, yet, in the end, the official
ombudsman determined this was not even fitting within their legal definition of
what could be sanctioned.
A second area to focus on is a concern about monitoring, and I know it was
already referenced by you. Frankly, monitoring anti-Semitic incidents in many
countries is frequently lacking or it is incomplete. The newly-released ODIHR
study on hate crimes – I’m sure you’ll hear a bit about from Floriane – reveals
that many governments are still lax in monitoring and recording hate crimes or
aggregating the results in a way that lets us understand who are the victims,
who are the perpetrators?
But the problem is especially acute when the goal is to combat anti-Semitism.
In countries where hate speech is not restricted, government authorities are
unlikely even to monitor such incidents. And the poor record in many countries
that do have such laws frequently deter citizens from coming forward and filing
Physical attacks may be monitored, but this still ignores the anti-Semitism
that appears in the press, in newspapers, on media, on the Internet, in public
demonstrations. And, of course, in anonymous hate mail that Jewish leaders
Frankly, when these incidents are not recorded or they’re underreported, it
conveys the misimpression to political leaders that the problem itself is not
so important. Now, as we’ve said, governments need to be encouraged to do a
better job of monitoring and recognizing anti-Semitism, and we should do
everything to urge them to do so and to live up to their commitments.
But frankly, in the interim, we can do more to assist local Jewish leadership,
other NGOs in various OSCE countries or regions to develop their own monitoring
standards. And if they do so in a standardized and internationally recognized
way, then public authorities, as we’ve seen for example in France and the U.K.,
can accept their results. I had a meeting in Sofia. I already saw an
eagerness on the part of Jewish leaders from six Balkan countries to come
together for the purpose of organizing a central place to do monitoring.
Finally, another main point to raise goes to the very question of defining
anti-Semitism. In 2004, when the European Monitoring Center conducted its
first study of anti-Semitism, it recognized that over half the countries – half
of its monitors in the EU countries had no definition of anti-Semitism and of
the remainder, there was no definition in common. So out of that grew a formal
working definition adopted in 2005 of anti-Semitism.
It’s a definition – I’ve appended it to my testimony that explains what it is,
explains by example how it manifests itself today. It also identifies those
aspects of anti-Semitism that relate to the demonizing of the state of Israel
or anti-Semitism in which Jews are held responsible for actions of the state of
It is now the official working definition of the successful organization the
European Union Fundamental Rights Agency. And it’s been adopted in various
places by the U.S. Special Envoy [to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism], at the
State Department, by parliamentary groups in the U.K. and in Germany and
certainly by ODIHR and all of its documents and its training of law enforcement.
It’s something that I’ve had the opportunity in my own meetings with officials
to share and I have to say for the most part, they are very responsive to
having this. I think we should not underestimate the fact that you do have
officials in various places who don’t know what anti-Semitism is or all of its
If I can generalize from at least these five country visits, the tenor of those
visits, I would say that thus far, the discussions were much more collaborative
and pragmatic than confrontational in nature. I think in all cases, there was
an acknowledgement of the problem and even if – if governments felt they were
dealing with it, a recognition that the problem could get worse and that they
were eager to make available, have made available to them additional resources.
We have seen the academic materials, the educational materials that ODIHR has
developed in terms of combating anti-Semitism. They’ve already been developed,
I think for 10 countries and three more are in the process. At some of my
visits where this is not in operation, there was an eagerness to accept, to put
to use, develop these materials for themselves in these countries.
Of course, they need some resources to develop them but you have, already, a
willingness to take advantage of them and education ministries that are willing
to implement them as part of school curriculum. Also, an interest in ODIHR
police training work. My most recent visit in Romania, the state secretary of
the interior, a career policeman who headed up the police department in
Bucharest in an earlier job felt, yes, they had a fairly good hold on these
But they could use help and he is eager for Romania to become part of this
training program. Again, what we’ve also – what I’ve also discovered – it has
to go beyond just police. Prosecutors, judges also need to have a familiarity
with the nature of hate crimes. I think this is something that ODIHR is
prepared to do. We can learn more from Floriane, from Ambassador Lenar?i?.
But again, it’s going to require resources.
And I think if we don’t take it beyond police training to prosecutors and
judges, then it simply stops. Finally, I would say I think that the efforts –
and I may be specifically focused on the problem of anti-Semitism, but I think
the efforts, more generally, of the mandates of the three of us are mutually
reinforcing. And clearly, in many cases, the solutions or the programs that
are needed to address the problem are similar across the board.
So even though the phenomenon of anti-Semitism is frequently unlike other forms
of intolerance where you can have strong anti-Semitism in a society with
virtually no Jews, for example, nevertheless the – the techniques to be
employed to get at that problem often can be helpful across the board. Thank
you very much.
SEN. CARDIN: Thank you, Rabbi Baker. Ambassador Akhmetov?
AMB. ADIL AKHMETOV: Mr. Chairman, Mr. Co-Chairman, distinguished members of
the Helsinki Commission, ladies and gentlemen, it’s an honor and a great
pleasure to address you here today. As I see the focus of my mandate is
raising awareness on intolerance and the discrimination against Muslims in
addition to what I have submitted in written form earlier for the hearing
I would like to draw your attention to the following. In spite of the – in
spite of tangible progress achieved in countering intolerance the
discrimination against Muslims, many participating States of the OSCE still
experience mounting waves of anti-Muslim bias and hostility, even 8 years after
9/11. In this regard, I will focus on two issues that are the call of the
OSCE’s mandate, hate crimes against Muslims and the context in which they take
As ODIHR’s annual report on hate crimes in the OSCE region reveals, there is
little reliable official or unofficial statistical information on hate crimes
motivated by anti-Muslim bias. Although 15 participating States informed ODIHR
that they collect data on anti-Muslim hate crimes, only Austria and Sweden
submitted figures on such crimes in 2008.
In the absence of information, how can democracies respond to the needs of
their people and ensure that safety and the freedom of movement are guaranteed
for all citizens? ODIHR’s report shows clearly that many states throughout the
region do not implement commitments they have made in relation with data
Now, let us try to answer the following question. Why are crimes against
Muslims underreported and under-recorded? The first reason is that many states
do not disaggregate data and specifically, do not record this specific type of
crime. Recommendations from numerous OSCE meetings, for example, the
Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting on Effective Implementation of Hate-Crime
Legislation stress the need for states to disaggregate data.
But in fact, the implementation of this legislation has failed. The second
reason is that victims of hate crimes do not report to the police because they
are afraid of being victimized by the law enforcement and sometimes because
they fear that their status may be disclosed. According to a recent survey of
the Fundamental Rights Agency, 11 percent of the respondents of the survey had
been victim of racially-motivated in-person crime, assault, threat or serious
harassment at least once in the previous 12 months.
But between 53 percent and 98 percent of them, depending on their country of
residence, did not report it to the police. This indicates that there is a
need for increasing the capacity of law enforcement officers in dealing with
hate crimes again Muslims. I would like to also encourage participating States
to benefit from ODIHR’s law enforcement officers training program on hate
crimes as much as possible.
A third reason could also be that there are not enough civil society
organizations that are equipped to support communities. Although states bear
the primary responsibility of addressing hate crimes, civil society
organizations have an important role in play rooted in communities. They have
privileged access to victims and therefore can assist victims by reporting to
the authorities and by providing medical or psychological care after attacks.
NGOs from only 10 participating States provided ODIHR with information on
anti-Muslim hate crimes in their countries, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece,
Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom and the United States. I would
like now to draw your attention to an aspect of the problem that is even more
complex to grasp.
I have witnessed that some media and some political parties use anti-Muslim
rhetoric with a view to sell more news, to gain more attention or to attract
more votes. In my opinion, this is a very short-sighted strategy. No
individual, no group and no society can ever profit from increased intolerance
within society. This year, I have witnessed campaigns against establishing
Islamic schools and building mosques or minarets.
Sadly enough, the words I have heard and I have read remind me of those that
were employed against Jews in the 1930s or in 1940s. No need to stress that in
this framework, Islam is often represented as a political ideology which is
incompatible with the principles of democracy and human rights.
I would like to draw your attention to the next point. How can ODIHR, OSCE
provide assistance as intolerance the discrimination against Muslims have
devastating effects, not only on the daily lives of the Muslim communities but
also leads to tensions in the society and the international relations to remedy
this negative and disturbing phenomenon?
I encourage the participating States to benefit from the experience and
assistance of ODIHR in developing educational tools to counter specific forms
of intolerance, country-specific resources – resource books on Muslims in the
OSCE regions and the guidelines for educators should be widely used and
Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to draw your attention to the following.
Yesterday, I had a number of meetings with U.S. and European community. They
mentioned that hate crimes against Muslims continue to be significant national
concern even after the election of President Obama. The latest FBI report,
2007, on hate crimes showed that number of crimes against Arab-Americans,
Muslims and Sikhs has increased four times since 2000.
Many Muslims have been murdered, calmly shot in the head as if it was
somebody’s vendetta. In 2001, the White House signed terrorist financing laws,
without consulting the Congress, to expand the Treasury Department’s unilateral
authority to freeze the assets of Muslim charity organizations and granted the
department with virtually unchecked power to designate groups as terrorist
The laws provide the government with the right to shut Muslim charity
organizations down, often without allegations of criminal wrongdoing and
criminal prosecution. The laws have disproportionately affected Muslim
charities and violate rights for free and fully practice of their religion.
They have restricted Muslims from zakat donation, one of the core pillars of
Islam. The American Muslims are restricted from providing material support for
their religion and making charities. American Muslims complain that with these
laws, the government affects the institution through which they practice their
During yesterday’s meetings, NGOs protecting Muslim rights also stressed that
funding for their activity is not sufficient, not only to raise the question
but also to address it at federal and interstate level. NGO-government
relations are left for mechanisms to communicate and work jointly to find the
This is what I heard yesterday and they requested to convey this information to
you and I am doing this. Thank you for your attention.
SEN. CARDIN: Well, thank you very much for your testimony. Mr. Mauro?
MR. MARIO MAURO: Thank you, Chairman. Let me thank you for the invitation to
address such a distinguished audience. Today’s hearing should be seen in the
framework of the continuous leadership of the USA and in particular, of the
U.S. Helsinki Commission on issues related to tolerance and nondiscrimination
in the OSCE. In this regard, it seems to me symbolic that I am here together
with Ambassador Akhmetov and Rabbi Baker for the joint country visit of the
three OSCE personal representatives on tolerance issues.
As you are aware, my mandate is broad. It covers two areas: racism and
xenophobia, including specific challenges faced by Roma and Sinti, and
intolerance and discrimination against Christians and members of other
religions. In the limited time available, I will mention both issues. I will
highlight current trends, successes and positive aspects, as well as the
Since my appointment as personal representative, we have witnessed an
unprecedented collapse of the global economy which has affected all societies
across the OSCE region. However, some groups have felt the impact of the
economic collapse much harder than other. Due to their already vulnerable
position, the effects of the economic crisis on migrants, refugees and minority
groups within the OSCE region were especially harsh and have contributed to
worsening their already unstable situation.
In a depressed economy, migrants or minority groups are seen by the majority as
competitors for jobs and social services and thus as a threat to their
livelihoods or standard of living. This results in labeling minority group
members as a burden to society.
When such discourse is prevalent, it can lead to an increase in racist and
xenophobic rhetoric. Such accusations can in return lead to increased racist
sentiments and can worsen the social exclusion of migrants and minorities.
Additionally, the lack of leadership of mainstream political parties throughout
the region in highlighting the positive contribution of migrants to national
and local economies and to essential maintenance of their societies'
infrastructures is also a matter of concern. Such attitude at best acts as a
barrier to the full participation of migrants and minority groups in societies.
It also gives implicit condolence to the acts of discrimination and hatred
towards migrants and their families.
Accounts of such attitudes and incidents can be found in various reports
including the ODIHR Annual Report on Hate Crimes in the OSCE Region. In this
regard, I wish to stress that ODIHR's report reveals that even if hate crimes
and incidents based on racism and xenophobia are widespread throughout the OSCE
region, there is no comprehensive and reliable data on the phenomenon.
For example, only 15 participating States have to this day sent to ODIHR
official information on hate crimes based on racism and xenophobia during 2008.
It is important to stress that the data gathered by the FBI will be available
later this year. This shows that participating States are, in this regard, not
living up to their commitments. And we all know that if states want to devise
effective policies, they need comprehensive and reliable data.
The situation looks even worse with regards to Roma. Only one participating
State, Sweden, has sent official data on hate crimes against Roma. At the same
time, we know that the past years have seen a rise in manifestations of
intolerance and violence against Roma in several OSCE participating States.
Reported incidents of violence, including those resulting in deaths, seem to be
not isolated cases but signal a worrying trend. The violence against Roma and
Sinti takes place in an environment of open anti-Roma hate speech, somehow
tolerated or unabated by the mainstream. Such rhetoric garnishes public
support, especially during electoral campaigns.
ODIHR's Status Report on the Implementation of the Action Plan on Improving the
Situation on Roma and Sinti within the OSCE Area was issued last year. It
elaborates on the progress made thus far, and on the remaining challenges
confronting participating States as regards to fulfilling their commitments
towards Roma and Sinti.
It also identified the negative trends in a number of areas, and an increasing
gap between the Roma population and the majority, in fields such as education,
housing and employment. The report also points to the challenges of
discrimination, marginalization and segregation which still prevail for Roma
and Sinti children when they enroll in local school systems.
Recognizing the importance of early education as an instrument for preventing
social exclusion and marginalization, and for effecting a long-term improvement
in the situation of Roma and Sinti, the Ministerial Council last year adopted a
decision on enhancing OSCE Efforts to Implement the Action Plan on Improving
the Situation of Roma and Sinti within the OSCE Area.
There are many problems inhibiting effective responses to racism and
xenophobia. Amongst the most prominent ones are institutional barriers and
challenges, which can sometimes impede positive policies and good intentions.
Worse still, in some countries, it is the state policy that institutionalizes
racism and discrimination.
In such cases, seemingly neutral policies or legislation have discriminatory
effects on certain groups of population, who are often already marginalized or
socially excluded. Situation of Roma and Sinti in many OSCE participating
States provides an illustration of this worrying trend.
Another example of institutional racism is the policy of ethnic or racial
profiling by law enforcement agencies. Examples of such practice have been
well documented by nongovernmental as well as intergovernmental organizations
in a large number of OSCE participating States and it is safe to say that no
country has a clean record in this regard.
Despite a number of good practices and initiatives aimed at addressing the root
causes and effects of racism and xenophobia implemented across the OSCE, there
still remains a worrying gap between the politically binding human dimension
commitments and the actual implementation of these commitments across much of
the OSCE region.
A strong and unequivocal stance against racism and xenophobia, including
anti-Roma hatred and violence is urgently needed. States and relevant
stakeholders must unite in their efforts and use all existing frameworks and
resources to combat such phenomena and prevent further escalation of violence
against those vulnerable groups of the population.
Since in December 2004, the Bulgarian OSCE Chairmanship appointed a Personal
Representative on Combating Racism, Xenophobia and Discrimination, also
focusing on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians, a number of OSCE
tolerance-related decisions and declarations were adopted, which included
specific commitments and references to the fight against prejudice, intolerance
and discrimination against Christians.
It is important to recall that these commitments are based on and reflect a
dual approach defined by the participating States, defining and devising
policies that guarantee the principle of equality and fight all forms of
intolerance, addressing broad concepts like racism and intolerance in societies
while at the same recognizing the specificities of different forms of
intolerance such as intolerance against Christians and members of other
I believe that more than any other, the mandate of the Personal Representative
on Combating Racism, Xenophobia and Discrimination, also focusing on
Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians and Members of Other
Religions encapsulates this concept well, both in terms of opportunities and
challenges deriving from it.
One example of the complexities and challenges faced is the increasing
“racialization of religion”, which reflects the complex relationship between
race and religion and their public perception. The concept suggests that a
racial connotation can be extended to a religion, a religious group, or a
belief system, although its adherents may include people of many races.
Regarding intolerance and discrimination against Christians, I am pleased to
report that the first event entirely devoted to intolerance and discrimination
against Christians was held in Vienna in 2009, in March, when ODIHR hosted a
roundtable on this topic. The roundtable attracted more than 100 participants,
including many representatives of religious communities, experts and
researchers in the OSCE area.
This is a testimony to the fact that the OSCE offers a unique forum to address
these issues, unique firstly, because of the specificity of the commitments and
secondly, because of the OSCE's inclusive geographical scope. The roundtable
provided a platform to discuss and better understand the nature and scope of
the problem, the study of which had been limited and is now considered by many
to be in its conceptual and defining stages.
The roundtable concluded that intolerance against Christians is manifested in
various forms throughout the OSCE region and called for improved collection of
data on intolerance and discrimination against Christians. This is all the
more evident when one looks at the data provided by this year's Hate Crimes
Report prepared by ODIHR. Only three participating States submitted
information and statistics to ODIHR on intolerance and discrimination against
Nonetheless, religious communities and civil society reported episodes of
vandalism and violent acts directed at Christians and their properties,
including places of worship and cemeteries. Desecration of places of worship
seems to be a particularly common feature of intolerance and discrimination
against Christians in many parts of the OSCE area, including Western Europe,
the Balkans and Eastern Europe.
Episodes of intolerance and discrimination committed against members of other
religions, such as the Sikh community, were also reported. In some parts of
the OSCE area, Christian churches and members of other religions face very
basic problems, such as the prohibition of acquiring legal status, praying
freely and disseminating literature.
It is important to focus on this issue as intolerance and discrimination of
religious communities is closely linked to their limitations of freedom of
religion or belief. In this context, I would like to commend the United States
for collecting comprehensive and disaggregated data on hate crimes against
Christians and members of other religions. Thank you for your attention.
SEN. CARDIN: Well, let me thank all three of you for your testimony. There’s
some common themes here that all of you have mentioned that we can do a better
job in collection of data and that we do – need to do a better job in
monitoring the activities in our own community. Let me just make a note of the
fact that in the United States, we do have good collection of data information.
But there are gaps.
I introduced legislation this past week for collection of data on violence
against the homeless. We just don’t know the statistical information. We know
it’s on the rise and I think before you can develop a concrete strategy, you
need to know the facts. And that’s why collection of data becomes so important
and it also helps us on the monitoring issues.
We’ve had a lot of activity over the last, I guess now, five or six years on
commitments made to fight all forms of intolerance and to have action plans.
It seems like we are still struggling on the collection of data, that we’re not
doing anywhere near a strong enough job in that regard.
Ms. Hohenberg, we have you here as a resource. I would like to get you
involved in the discussion as to what suggestions you might have to strengthen
the ability of states understanding their responsibilities on the accurate
collection of information so that we can share information and best practices?
Maybe I’ll start with Ms. Hohenberg just to give you a chance to perhaps – it’s
wonderful to have ODIHR here. We want to make sure that the support for the
three personal representatives was uniform and significant and we know that
ODIHR has filled that need under very tough budgets. So we thank you for your
MS. FLORIANE HOHENBERG: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I really
appreciate the opportunity to say a few words about the findings on our report
on hate crimes and responses by states. And I think this will allow me to
touch upon an essential matter, which is support and I’m thinking of political
support – support from experts as well as financial resources.
As the three personal representatives have already mentioned, the information
we have received for the Hate Crime Report is very – is very patchy. It is not
comprehensive. It’s mostly unreliable and cannot be compared. We have
received 47 responses from participating States to a questionnaire we had sent
last year, which is actually a good level of responses. It’s rising.
However, only 42 participating States mentioned that they do collect data. And
out of these 42, we have received statistics only from 15. And then when you
look at the different forms of intolerance, you see that among these, there are
huge disparities. I will just go through the numbers, the figures because I
think they are quite striking.
Only 15 participating States report on racism and xenophobia; one on Roma and
Sinti; eight on anti-Semitism; two on intolerance against Muslims; three on
intolerance against Christians; zero on intolerance against members of other
religions; three on LGBT groups; and two on persons living with disabilities.
In the years ahead, I think ODIHR, together with the participating States, will
have a lot of work to do. Our mandate is to support states to live up to the
commitments and these commitments are quite clear. I think OSCE has a very
extensive and sound body of commitments in hate crime prevention and response.
We offer technical assistance in terms of training, in terms of data
collection, in terms of improving legislation. In particular, when it comes to
data collection, we would like to develop, for next year, guidelines for
participating States and how to set up data collection systems. Since we have
received, actually already, requests from particular participating States to
help them establish such a sound monitoring system, we will continue carrying
out training for police as well as to start carrying out training for
prosecutors and judges.
We will also continue developing educational materials for teachers on fighting
anti-Semitism as well as discrimination against Muslims because as we all know,
hate crimes do not happen in a vacuum but do take place in a context.
So I think for us to be effective and to be able to carry out a mandate
effectively, it will be important in the years ahead to have clear political
support, I think, from participating States and to have numerous occasions,
participating States reminding their peers that they have to live up to their
commitments in terms of data collection and in general, in response and
prevention of hate crimes.
The second aspect, I think, will be important for us is that we can still draw
on the expertise of those who already have a lot experience in responding and
preventing hate crimes. And the last one, which I think is crucial, are the
financial resources for ODIHR. I think my director, Ambassador Lenar?i?, has
already – on many occasions –
SEN. CARDIN: We’d be disappointed if you didn’t bring up the financial –
MS. HOHENBERG: Yes – expressed appreciation – I start with the appreciation
for the United States’ extraordinary contributions. I think in particular for
the Tolerance and Nondiscrimination Department which, I think, would have never
started this pioneering work in Europe and hate crimes without the financial
Unfortunately, we can deplore that the contributions have decreased
progressively and have ceased completely in 2007. So we really hope that this
financial support will resume in the year ahead and that we will be able to
carry out the task that we have – actually have been given to us by
SEN. CARDIN: And we agree with that. Sen. Voinovich has been one of our
leaders on this issue on the appropriations process but we absolutely agree
that the mandate of ODIHR has been expanded over the years and the reliability
of the budget support has not been there. We need to do a much better job.
I just want to get some response as to what migration has – the number of –
increase of migration has had on the concerns on discrimination. There’s
significant intolerance against immigrants in all of the member states. With
tough economic times, those pressures can grow even stronger and we – some of
you have mentioned that the minorities and communities, well, they’ve only
grown as a result of migration.
So I just want to get your assessment as to how that has impacted your missions
– for any one of you who might want to talk about the migration issue.
MR. MAURO: Thank, Chairman. Only a brief consideration in the sense that
surely it’s clear, for example, that religion is not the solution for the
problems of – for the political problems. But at the same time, it is not
correct, for example, for the political level to try to solve the problems
And this is one of the facts linked to the difficulties in the relationship
between the immigrants and the different countries because it’s clear in
different countries that in great difficulties linked to the economic crisis.
For example, a lot of parties search – tried to solve their problems attacking
And for example, in some countries of Europe, this fact created the condition
for a great tension that is new for these countries, it is absolutely not usual
for the traditional and for the normal level of the political debate in these
countries. It’s new and it’s very important to underline, to stress this fact
because it’s clearly potentially effect with the very important consequence for
At the same time, when these position become the normal position of a new
generation, it becomes also a problem of the system of the education and for
example, this is very clear in a lot of European countries that are – that have
not the attitude to have a lot of immigrants. If it’s possible to make also a
consideration about your introducing speech, it’s very important when Mr.
Voinovich said education, education, education.
It’s absolutely the fact that we need in a very particular manner. But at the
same time, we need for a better strategy -- to favor the strategy of education.
And I think that try to improve the extra-budgetary strategy talking about the
efforts of ODIHR is a good intention but I am a politician and normally I know,
that the only manner to improve extra-budgetary strategy is to create the
condition for which it become a budget line and not extra-budgetary.
And this is, I think, one of the most important problem in the OSCE activity
because we need to become a budget line of the activity and I think that the
prestigious Commission – Helsinki Commission of the U.S. Congress is very
important to obtain this result.
SEN. CARDIN: Mr. Mauro, before I turn over to my colleagues, I want to ask you
one specific question. I hoped you would clarify a comment that was made at
the Warsaw Human Dimensions Implementation Conference, which I believe all
three of you were – I think you were participating about those who dress in
clothes that could be perceived by the community – religious garments that
could be perceived as being extremist, saying that perhaps it’s understandable
violence against individuals.
I would like you, if you could, to clarify that statement. Obviously, we’re
all concerned about protecting everyone’s freedom and the practice of wearing
religious garments is one that is protected under Helsinki principles.
MR. MAURO: Yes, very briefly, as probably my colleague, Akhmetov, just
clarified this point – for example, Islamic fundamentalism is an ideology, it
is not the Islamic religion. Fundamentalism used the name of God for a project
of power. If we try to combat this phenomenon, but we use a strategy aimed to
combat the Islamic religion, surely we don’t use the right strategy. Therefore,
in this way we would make a big mistake which will cause big consequences,
improving in our societies inopportune tensions.
I think that when we consider a religion dangerous for the pacific coexistence,
we create the condition for new tensions. In this sense, it’s very important to
clarify, to give a right interpretation of the potentiality of religion and of
the institutional and public role of religion.
SEN. CARDIN: But you do acknowledge that society needs to protect the safety
of all of its citizens and that you cannot justify action against individuals
because of the manner in which they are dressed, as part of their religion.
MR. MAURO: Yes, in general, I think that we are obliged to guarantee the
safety and the security in our society and we have to discover if beyond
religious motivation, there is a project of power. This is true not only in
case of religious problems or tensions. For example, we can consider the
phenomenon of migration. I’m Italian and I have a lot of relatives in this
country that were immigrants a long time ago.
They are free and they are happy because surely, USA institutions, long time
ago, made a battle against the Italian mafia in order to safeguard their rights
to be free citizens. I think that in Europe and in the OSCE region, we are
obliged to do this kind of battle in order to give to all the men and women the
possibility to live their religion separated from the misuse of religion for a
project of power.
SEN. CARDIN: I agree with your statement, but I just caution – I mean I think
of Hasidic Jews and attacks on Hasidic Jews because they look different and
they’re practicing their religion. They have every right and they’re protected
under OSCE principles. I think of the Muslim population and the garments that
they wear. They’re protected under Helsinki. I just distinguish that from the
manner in which they dress from the actions that radicals propose. I think
it’s a separate issue.
MR. MAURO: I fully agree. I think that to try to find this equilibrium is
exactly our job.
SEN. CARDIN: Congressman Hastings.
REP. ALCEE HASTINGS (D-FL): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and I thank our
presenters. Regrettably, I have a hearing that has started that I have to go
to, so I will uncustomarily not ask any questions and pass along all to
Congressman Smith and Sen. Voinovich any opportunity. But I do not wish to
fail to thank the representatives for the work that they do and to acknowledge
that there seems to be rife in the OSCE, almost a denial of the fact that these
issues of major consequence exist in a variety of countries in the OSCE region.
And it’s particularly disturbing because it would appear to me that we are
making progress but it’s by comparison to the problem, the progress is too slow
and I don’t quite, at this point, know where we go with the impending issues
such as the migration problems that all of us understand enhance racism and
xenophobia and anti-Semitism and one feeds off of the other.
The economic downturn creates additional pressures on individuals and
societies. And these things are not going to diminish overnight. And so the
personal representatives have extraordinary work ahead of them and I would
definitely hope that we can complement them as we have in the past by
continuing to put a light on what is obviously an ongoing problem of major
consequence. And I thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. CARDIN: Thank you very much, Congressman Hastings. Congressman Smith?
REP. CHRIS SMITH (R-NJ): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Rabbi Baker, in
your country report on Spain, you pointed out that there were three surveys
that showed an alarming degree of anti-Semitism, including one by the Spanish
Education Ministry that reported that 50 percent of adolescent students said
that they did not want to, quote, “sit next to a Jew.”
You also pointed out that the negative views are frequently amplified in the
Spanish press. You say most manifestations of anti-Semitism are to be found in
the press, but also that there’s an intertwining of opposition to Israeli
politics and anti-Semitism. That line of demarcation has been fudged.
We’ll all recall because all of us, I think, were there, when Natan Sharansky
made that very impassioned, very incisive speech at the Berlin Conference on
anti-Semitism, when he talked about disagreements with Israel are legitimate,
that within the Knesset obviously, there are very robust debates as there ought
to be, as there is in the U.S. Congress. But that doesn’t spill over into
hatred. And yet, those differences are often used as a pretext for hatred and
you seem to have found it, to a great degree, in Spain.
So my question – and I have a number of questions and I’ll lay them all out and
then you know, our distinguished panelists can answer them, what can be done
vis-à-vis Spain? The Spanish situation seems to have evaded much scrutiny over
the years. You do point out that there are upwards of 40,000 Jews, relative to
the 44 million population of Spain. You know, it’s a small minority but
sometimes, the smaller the minority, the more extreme the ability of others to
persecute and discriminate.
I’d also like to ask the three reps, do the three of you dialogue? For
example, in the Central Asian countries, there are significant numbers of
instances of discrimination against Christians, especially particular
And I’m wondering if – do you talk to Mr. Mauro and vice versa, to you know, so
that when you are talking to authorities in the Central Asian countries, and
where there is a dominance of Muslim belief but there are also some pious
Muslims who are discriminated against there, do you raise the issue and say you
know, these states have an obligation to protect these minorities? So do you
talk to each other?
Bosnia, it seems to me, would present a classic case where all three of the
world’s great religions could collaborate further. Mustafa Ceri? was in town
last week, the grand mufti of Bosnia-Herzegovina. And, you know, I believe he
is an outstanding religious leader who has made it very clear that the entity
voting is now leading to very, very bad consequences.
And, you know, it s a relic of Dayton; it needs to be reformed so that the
parliament can function. And even in your statement, Rabbi Baker, you pointed
out that Bosnia has yet to pass legislation restituting former communal and
private property. Obviously draft legislation won’t move until there is a real
functioning parliament. So it seems to me that there is an opportunity to
remedy a large number of these religious issues if you get a functioning
parliament up and running in Bosnia.
And so I wonder if there is any talk of, you know, working together on Bosnia
and making that a focus because there you have large numbers of Muslims, large
number of Christians and a not insignificant number of Jewish people who live
there. If you can touch on that it is perhaps a test case that you might want
And, finally, Mr. Mauro, if you could speak to the issue of discrimination and
intolerance by both Western European elites, which I believe is bad and getting
worse in terms of dismissiveness towards Christian beliefs and the socialist
trends towards all people of all faiths, including Christians. We know that
Chavez’s Venezuela is not in the OSCE space but we know that he and other
socialists have really declared war on religion, most recently with his decree
about religious teaching in schools in Venezuela.
We know Spain has a disproportionate, perhaps positive impact on many countries
of Latin America, and we wonder how much of that influence may be manifesting
here in our own hemisphere – but this idea of the Western European elites and
also the socialists with regard to religion who have very little tolerance for
RABBI BAKER: Thank you for the opportunity to expand on this and respond, Rep.
Smith. Spain, as we found, is a country where the Jewish population is less
than one one-hundredth of 1 percent, so if someone is interested in attacking a
Jew in Spain, they probably have work to do to find one. But, at the same
time, we also know that you don’t need a Jewish population even to have
anti-Semitism. I think that there were these sort of limited surveys that
showed a rather strikingly high degree of negative views towards Jews.
And in discussions with the government officials, it was an opportunity really
to, again – to me it is a puzzling question why. In most cases, the general
assumption was, it is what comes through the media. Maybe not only, I mean you
have a very traditional Catholic country from the days of Franco and elements
there may contribute to an anti-Jewish sentiment – even its legacy of an
inquisition centuries ago. But no question the way the media portrays, largely
it portrays the Middle East conflict in a very negative way towards Israel and
I heard from officials – again, they are really surmising this – that that has
an impact on how Spanish citizens view Jews or how kids do in this one quick
Some of the things that are taking place try to get at this issue: There is a
very serious and comprehensive survey that an arm of the, the Foreign Ministry,
Casa Sefarad Israel institution, is undertaking. So at least that ought to
give a clearer picture, not only of attitudes but maybe a better understanding
of why those attitudes exist.
REP. SMITH: Point of clarification on the media: Is it the socialist media?
Is it the general across the board or all media?
RABBI BAKER: I think that people would say, it’s across the board, that there
is a general attitude in society that is often reflected in the media. I’m not
an expert; presumably there may be more newspapers than others. I think we
would also say that when you don’t have context, you don’t have reference, then
there is a conflation between Israelis and Jews often. So even if it might not
be viewed as necessarily a critical article, if the image is soldiers and I
mean that is the only image that conveys something –
It was pointed out to me, during one of my conversations informally, it is not
in the report, but with an official in the Justice Ministry who said in
passing, you know, I’ve been invited to many conferences on Islamophobia; I’ve
never been invited to a conference on anti-Semitism. And I think the sense of
perhaps people not really knowing and understanding and appreciating this is an
important thing that we can get at.
I was heartened by the fact that there was an openness in the human rights
office in the Foreign Ministry to try to do something, recognizing, too, media
plays a critical role; perhaps bringing together media, organizing a conference
that would be perhaps a neutral umbrella that can bring them in; focusing on
not only Jews, but other minorities in the media but a way again of getting at
this. So perhaps, again some of it could be with the support of ODIHR, the
representative of freedom of the media, independent sources; we could move
there. But it is a troubling situation.
I met with teachers of the Holocaust. They’re eager; they’re enthused in doing
this and at the same time, in January, this year, which was the date in which
it is commemorated, we heard stories, well, because of the war in Gaza we can’t
do it. We have principals telling us don’t do it this year, or saying what you
need to do is focus on the plight of Palestinians as though there’s an
equation. So this was a troubling thing.
I would comment, too, regarding Bosnia, because again it has a very small
Jewish community. I think it feels comfortable, historically rooted, but you
see in the society and echoes to I think taking up this issue, the discussions
can be broader ranging than just the issue of anti-Semitism. You have now a
kind of fixed ethnic division policy. You have a program, one of the most
complicated things to understand is how education works in Bosnia and
Herzegovina. There was not one education minister to meet with; there was I
think 13. In all of the different regions, you have an institution; I think
they refer to it as two schools under one roof.
It was a way, after the war, to try to bring things back to in a temporary
stage to some normalcy. But what it meant it is, ethnic groups go to school in
the morning: one group in the morning, one group in the afternoon. So they’re
growing up without any kind of direct interaction. It will only reinforce an
ethnic division. As I say, Jews are so small they don’t really fit in this
picture. But I think it points to the difficulties that you’ve identified.
And then, finally, when you ask about our conversing together among the three
of us and so on, I hope we will do more. I mean, we obviously suffer from the
fact that I’m in Washington; Sen. Akhmetov is in Astana; Mr. Mauro is in Milan
or Brussels or Strasbourg. But, you know, to get us all together, I mean, in a
way, this hearing not only provides an opportunity for us to speak to you but
for us to speak to the three of us because at least we’ll be together for a
couple of days here and in Canada.
AMB. AKHMETOV: So regarding the discrimination of Christians in Central Asian
countries, including Kazakhstan, I would say that Kazakhstan is historically
located on the crossroads between Asia and Europe. And you know that it is a
very multinational country: 130 nationalities and minorities live under the
same roof, under one roof. And more than 40 confessions are there. And we
acquired our independence in 1991 and since then, not a single clash has ever
Simply our constitution prohibits any kind of discrimination. And as you know,
during the Soviet period, not only mosques and churches and synagogues – all of
them were banned, but now, they’re coming up. And Jewish synagogues are there;
Orthodox churches are there; mosques are there. And there is no problem
between these religions.
On the other hand, our president initiated Congress of World and the
Traditional Religions and we have held three congresses already, beginning in
2001, and then in 2003 and then in 2009. The third one was very
representative: 77 delegations came from all over the world. And by the way,
Simon Peres, the president of Israel, participated. And he gave a speech, and
I would say he was very positive about the interreligious, intercultural
dialogue in Kazakhstan.
And historically, Kazakh people are tolerant, and once, we became minorities
ourselves, because during the Soviet period, after – during the Second World
War, Stalin deported a lot of Caucasians to Kazakhstan – and not only
Caucasians – the Koreans from the Far East. And during the development of
virgin lands, a lot of Ukrainians came to Kazakhstan, a lot of Belarusians,
Uzbeks and everybody is there. But tolerance is there – not a single clash,
thank God. And we enjoy this peaceful coexistence. And everybody understands
that the stability of Kazakhstan depends upon the stability of the interethnic
and interreligious and intercivilizational dialogue.
And in my new capacity, I participated in the last Congress in Astana. Then I
participated also in Krakow Congress in Poland and also, another congress in
Geneva, initiated by the custodian of two mosques – Saudi Arabian king’s
initiative. And wherever I was, I drew one truth: Leaders of religions should
accent, should underline, their common values, not differences.
The same idea was stressed by President Obama when he gave his speech in Cairo.
And it was a triumphant speech, I would say, and we were very impressed – not
only Kazakhstani people, but people all over the world, and I think Americans,
too. Because he gave the values that Muslim culture, Muslim civilization
contributed to the world civilization. And his speech is a very good example.
And in this context, I would like to mention one thing. We have a sister city
in the United States: Tucson, Arizona. It is still our sister city with
Almaty. And I represented Almaty in Tucson, Arizona, for 3 years. And I know
that America is a very multinational country. And every year, Tucson
celebrates “Tucson, Know Yourself.” One day, they celebrate – they
demonstrate, there, clothes, costumes; the second day there, cuisine; and the
third day there, culture, songs, dances and everywhere. I even won a prize
there with my wife.
And this understanding should be there. You see, if we accent on the common
values, then of course – if we bring up our children on the basis of common
values between religions, between cultures and between civilizations – and much
depends upon education and on bringing up children from the cradle. There is a
Kazakh saying: What you have tasted in your nest, you will hunt when you fly.
The second meaning is, we should bring up our children properly, see?
On the other hand, I would like to cite the Quran – and President Obama also
cited the Quran; not only the Quran, but other scripts. There is one I had:
Islam is the religion of Prophet Abraham, it is the religion of Moses; it is
the religion of other prophets until Mohammed; and Mohammed respected all his
And why this understanding is missing? It is lack of knowledge. It is lack of
education. If we bring up our children, if we bring up our citizens on these
common values, a lot of things will be eliminated. And I’ll give you one more
example: While I was in Tucson, I was very surprised – every American knows
who John Wayne was – prominent actor who played a lot of roles in cowboy films.
And he left a will before his death. And he died of cancer; he smoked.
And I’m quite sure most of the Americans stopped smoking because his video was
broadcast time and again and time and again. And today, one person created
this kind of value. And that’s why common values should be broadcast widely
and very often. We shouldn’t think that if one article was published and
everybody reads and everybody just comes to – he is guided to the right part –
no. These kinds of values should be, time and again, repeatedly propagated on
TV, in newspapers – common values.
And when common values are shared by everybody, I think a lot of problems – a
lot of challenges are solved easily. It is because of misunderstanding. Those
guys, for example, who target Muslims, I am quite sure they don’t know anything
about the content of the Bible, content of the Torah or other books, scripts.
And the Quran says a Muslim who doesn’t respect other – every script, every
same books, he is not a Muslim, see?
These kinds of common values should be shared by everybody. And unfortunately,
this is missing. And much depends on us, upon the rulers, upon the
bureaucracy, upon the government, and we should pay much attention to this
area, I think.
SEN. CARDIN: Well-said.
MR. MAURO: Thank you, Ambassador Akhmetov for your very interesting question,
but also for your very political question. It’s clear that asking something –
SEN. CARDIN: I think you need to push your button one more time.
MR. MAURO: I’m sorry. It’s clear that asking something about the strategy of
the socialists in Europe to a politician, all right, is – (chuckles) – not so
simple to answer. But I must win the temptation to answer as a politician, all
right. I am here in another role. And it’s important for me to clarify that
surely, in Western Europe and union, there is a debate about, for example, the
concept of liceity because it’s clear that in European culture, religion and
politics are absolutely separated.
But at the same time, it’s possible to verify that there is a war of the
politics against the religion. Why? For example, because now, there is in
Western Europe a great debate about the future of our welfare – of our welfare
state. And the Christian confessions, for examples – they have a very
important role in the education and the health sector. For this reason, it may
be possible that sometimes, there are some laws that created difficulties to
the Christian confessions for their role in the education and the health
It’s important debating of that to create the condition to not be ideological
because it’s clear a debate in the interest of the new generation. And for
this reason, I think that this level of the problem id over discrimination,
surely not of persecution. I think that is very important to understand the
difference, because we, in this moment, have the risk to create a greater
emphasis talking about the debate about liceity in Western Europe.
Surely, it’s a level of the debate not new for the European system because also
in the past, we have had great shock between the political power and the
churches. But exactly for this reason, there is now in European culture great
equilibrium. And I think it’s in our common interests to preserve this
SEN. CARDIN: Thank you very much. Sen. Voinovich?
SEN. VOINOVICH: Thank you. I’m interested that you’re all going to different
places and you rarely have a chance to get together. And I would hope that you
would spend some time together. You each have a symbiotic relationship that if
you’re going to achieve your respective responsibilities, I think that by your
working together, you can make it easier for each of you to be successful.
I’m really interested in you coming back to us with some kind of prioritization
as to the things that you would – that make the most difference, and also how
those would be funded. For example, one thing that I’m kind of disappointed to
hear is, Rabbi Baker, you said that there is finally a definition of
anti-Semitism that’s agreed to.
Is there a definition of anti-Muslim? Is there a definition of anti-religion
that people could agree to, so that when you say to a country, we want you to
keep track of incidents dealing with this, that they know what it is that
they’re supposed to be looking for? And you have this TANDIS system, but the
question is, if I’m supposed to keep track of something, what is it that I’m
supposed to keep track of?
So you’ve got to have some definition, I think, across the board. Second of
all, how do you go about monitoring that? And I’d be interested in hearing
from Ms. Hohenberg – your ideas. How do you – once you have that information,
how do you have a system in place where you can get the monitoring to take
place? And that seems, to me, to be an issue that has to do with the political
That is, is this important enough – so behind this, I think that through the
international organization – the OSCE – it should be emphasized that this is a
very important issue and that we’ve seen that where we have not paid attention
to this, bad things happen; they get out of control. And so you want to do
everything you can to make sure that it doesn’t occur. Second of all, I would
like to know a list of the requests that you have made through the electronic,
extra-budgetary OSCE project requests, and how many of them have been
Sen. Cardin and others worked very hard to take and put the discrimination –
tolerance and non-discrimination on the core budget. Now, why did we do that
-- we did that because the willingness to pay for this is an indication that
it’s a priority of the organization. And so I have – you know, in our Foreign
Operations report, we have the Organization for Security and Cooperation in
Europe mentioned in our appropriations.
The committee supports the role of the OSCE in advancing United States
interests, including the promotion of human rights, democratic governance and
the rule of law, as well as efforts to combat human trafficking, sexual
exploitation of children, and anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance.
The committee expects the Department of State to provide adequate funding to
ensure continued United States leadership within the OSCE, including the OSCE’s
extra-budgetary education and police training initiatives. And then it goes on
to say, “combat terrorism in Europe and Eurasia,” but the fact of the matter is
that, if you talk about going beyond that.
And it seems that as parliamentarians, we ought to be trying to get
parliamentarians to say this is important enough to put this kind of language
in to indicate that they’re supportive of this effort. So you know, I’d like
you to comment on – and Ms. Hohenberg, do the people that are responsible in
each of these areas have enough staffing to get the job done, and what requests
have you made and how many of them have been entertained?
MS. HOHENBERG: Thank you very much for your questions. I think they’re all
absolutely topical. I will start with the first one on the definition – the
working definition on anti-Semitism and other definitions that would indeed
allow for collection data that is comparable across the region. Unfortunately,
the situation is such that definitions that are used in each state are
different because they are based on the legal framework – on the existing laws.
And so in lots of states, you have different definitions, of course, on hate
crimes, on the categories that are included and disaggregated, and as well, on
the – how the definition of – how hate crime is defined. Sometimes it’s the
perception of the offender; and sometimes it’s the perception of the victim;
sometimes, it’s the perception of the law enforcement. So you have the whole
range, I would say, of cases, which make, actually, the little data we receive
absolutely not comparable.
So of course, we would welcome – for international agencies, it’s wonderful to
have unique definitions because it allows for comparisons, but it is, indeed,
not the case. And it’s very difficult to advocate for that, since states –
SEN. VOINOVICH: So an OSCE effort to kind of have a common definition would be
MS. HOHENBERG: It would, probably. The question would be if it would be
realistic – if, given the political situation, it would be realistic to obtain
such a definition. But indeed, for the sake of having comparable and
comprehensive data, it would indeed be the case.
On the money train, because it’s very closely connected to that, how to put in
place, in participating States and by governments, because we all know that it
is a primary responsibility of states, reliable and comprehensive systems to
collect data. And I think, again, ODIHR can provide technical assistance, but
as long as there’s no political will and there is no leadership on these
issues, this doesn’t bear fruit.
So this is why, I think, we are very much in favor of having this human
dimension event where strong delegations advocate for strong and sound
monitoring systems, and as well, why we are very much in favor of working very
closely with the personal representatives. They are the political arm; they
are those who can open the doors and convince and advocate for change in
governments. And ODIHR can come after to provide the necessary follow-up.
SEN. VOINOVICH: Can I ask you something? Do you have – is it information
that’s available to us of the extra-budgetary requests that you’ve made? Is
that part of the records of the OSCE, and can we find out which ones you’ve
made and which ones have been entertained? Could you get that for us?
MS. HOHENBERG: Yes, well, what I can tell you is that, since the request was
distributed to participating states a week ago, I don’t have the overview on
the pledges that have been made so far, and I think states are only starting,
now, to think about – but for tolerance and non-discrimination, we have three
categories of program. The first one is a general program called “Prevention
and Response to Hate Crimes,” including training, data collection, legislative
assistance, et cetera.
The second program is on educational materials and raising awareness on
stereotypes and bias. These include, in particular, initiatives aimed at
combating stereotypes about Muslims and Jews. And a third area, which is
actually closely collected to tolerance and non-discrimination is the area
related to freedom of religion and belief because –
SEN. VOINOVICH: That was what, again, I’m sorry?
MS. HOHENBERG: Freedom of religion and belief, because interreligious
dialogue, religious discrimination and religious intolerance is, indeed, quite
closely linked with the other topics. But these documents can be put in the
records of this hearing, I think.
SEN. VOINOVICH: Well, as I say, I’d like to say which ones have been
entertained and, as part of a kind of a consensus as to what are the priorities
and, in order to achieve those priorities, the kind of resources that will be
necessary to make this possible. I know I’ve seen the educational materials a
couple of years ago. I was quite impressed with them. But I understand from
you, Rabbi Baker, that some of countries pay for it and others say they like it
but they don’t have the money to pay for it. Is that right?
RABBI BAKER: Well, we heard that in – certainly, in Latvia, for example,
they’d like to develop the materials. They don’t have the funds they can apply
to it. I think other governments may be coming forward to help them. I think
there was a desire of groups in Hungary to also have such materials developed
for their youths. I suspect –
SEN. VOINOVICH: Pardon me, but the materials that I’ve seen, I don’t know why
– I don’t know if you’ve seen them or not, Mr. Chairman – but they had various
countries, but they’re pretty much, very much in the same format, and very
interesting. What I’m saying is that, you’re saying that Latvia’s got to
develop them; couldn’t they take the materials coming from OSCE and basically
say these are good or change them, and then –
RABBI BAKER: Well, in fact, that’s what happens. You know, you have a basic
kind of template or framework, it needs to be translated into the local
language, and then elements in it will reflect the history in that country. So
there needs to be at least some educational partner to assist in putting that
together. I don’t think that’s an enormous difficulty.
Then you have to have the support from an education system. And again, in this
case, there’s an open door that would employ it and put it into the –
primarily, it’s the secondary school curriculum – and then print enough
material and train teachers to use it. So there are several steps. I don’t
think it – we’re not talking something that would take years to do.
If – and it seems, and I follow from what Floriane said, that it seems to have
been the practice that I can – when we visit, we can open doors, for whatever
reason – and I want to say, I hope it’s all positive and on the merits –
there’s an interest in ministries being forthcoming in response. So I think we
should seize those moments to be able to say okay, let’s put this in place. Or
in some cases, it needs to be at least financially supplemented. There’s not
enough materials printed to really make its way through the schools, for
example. So you know, in some cases, it’s simply the government picking up
responsibility for it.
SEN. VOINOVICH: Well, it seems to me that you do the doable. And each of you,
as you go around, you find countries that you’re dealing with recognize there’s
a problem, they want to do something about it. They seem to be receptive. And
if they are, then we should take advantage of it. Now, there are others that
may not be as supportive, but let’s start working on the ones that are
receptive to it and help them do the job. And as they move along, maybe others
will then start to follow in line.
One of the thoughts I had, if we have this – I haven’t talked to your
ambassador yet about a special meeting in April sometime – a question of
anti-Semitism. The issue would be to single out countries that are doing a
good job. In other words, we always bang people over the head; let’s
congratulate countries that are doing a good job and let them kind of set the
precedent. And other people are there and they say hey, they’re doing it;
maybe we should be doing that. I’m anxious to have you come back and make your
recommendations to us on how we can help you to do a better job with the job
we’re asking you to do. Thank you.
SEN. CARDIN: Thank you, Sen. Voinovich. We’ve been joined by Congresswoman
REP. GWEN MOORE (D-WI): Thank you, Sen. Cardin, and I want to thank the U.S.
Helsinki Commission, for allowing me to sit in on these meetings. I am so
delighted to be here with the personal representatives, the representative of
the chair of the personal representatives on combating anti-Semitism,
intolerance and discrimination against Muslims and intolerance and
discrimination against Christians and members of other religions. Did we leave
It’s so amazing to me, and I think we have really – Mr. Chairman, we have
really done a great deal in the OSCE region to really combine all of these
intolerances into one effort to demonstrate to everyone in the OSCE region that
intolerance, as Martin Luther King said, intolerance and injustice to one
person is injustice to everyone. And if we could get that message out as a
coherent message that there’s – we’re all stakeholders in anti-discrimination
against each other, I think we will have gone a long way.
My specific questions – one, perhaps, is to Miss Hohenberg. Given the
organizing principle of all religions to say, you know, my way is the way, you
know – Allah is the way, you know, Jesus is the way, no religion is the way,
that we need to follow the Jewish traditions of thousands of years and that is
truly the only way to go – given that, to what extent is our operations, our
educational materials, our briefings, do they involve religious communities and
religious leaders in terms of raising their consciousness about continuing to
practice their own religions, but to also make them aware of how their messages
can feed some intolerance?
MS. HOHENBERG: Thank you very much for your question, Congresswoman. The
educational materials that have been developed by ODIHR to combat stereotypes
and bias against Jews and that have been, now, developed to combat stereotypes
against Muslims actually do not – I would say do not talk about religion. It’s
really about representations, of misrepresentations of history, of the
contributions. And it’s about putting facts and giving information on the
reality of the contribution and the existence of communities within societies.
This is the first part of my answer. The second part is, indeed, ODIHR’s also
developed teaching guidelines on teaching about religions in public schools.
These guidelines that were developed two years ago were developed after ODIHR
and another number of international actors, actually, had realized that their –
that intolerance would be nurtured by ignorance – by ignorance about other
So these guidelines set the rules or give indications to educators on how they
can inform about other religions in schools. They would, in no case, I think,
replace religious teaching done by community leaders. This is simply something
different that is supplementary and complementary – in no way something that
replaces religious teaching. I hope I have answered your question.
REP. MOORE: Anyone else like to respond to that? I see Rabbi chomping at the
bit, and I do have a question for you, too.
RABBI BAKER: I do want to say that I think that the special nature of the OSCE
is it’s where civil society sits at the same table as governments, and civil
society may be broader than just religious representation, but it includes
that. So I think you do have religious groups, as well as other
non-governmental groups, that are sitting around the table in part of these
I think as Floriane said, the programs may not be focused on religious groups,
but the goal, of course, is quite inclusive.
REP. MOORE: There’s a bell ringing for somebody. When the bell tolls, it’s
SEN. CARDIN: The Senate has a vote on.
REP. MOORE: If can I just ask one follow-up question? Rabbi, I was really
intrigued by a comment you made, wanted you to expand on it a little bit, about
– it was sort of a caution – beware of these hate crimes legislation and the
unintended consequences. We, in the House, took a vote on hate crimes and we
had some, you know, members who are fairly progressive in a lot of ways giving
us that same caution. Can you just expand a little bit on your precaution
against hate crimes legislation?
RABBI BAKER: Well, yes. It was really more a focus on what we see – we
wouldn’t see in this country, but we see in various places in Europe – where
you have laws that are designed to restrict hate speech. So it’s not in terms
of hate crimes themselves, but we are trying to control the kind of hateful
speech that you’ll find in newspapers, on the Internet and so on. I think we
have a tradition in the United States of confronting that kind of speech with
public rebuke – with strong speech in return.
I think in some societies, based on the history, based on other aspects, there
are laws that prohibit certain kinds of speech. So for example, in Germany –
some other European countries as well – Holocaust denial is prohibited. We can
debate theoretically, is that a good way to get at the problem, but on the
ground, I think what we have seen in different places is that those laws don’t
necessarily work very well. Not many people are prosecuted or convicted, and
even some who are, the fines are so small, the process takes so long, you can
question whether they’re deterred by it.
And finally, I think we’ve seen some examples in some societies where political
leaders use it as a way to get off the hook. They don’t have to speak out
strongly because they can say we have a prosecutor, he’s investigating – so
it’s really more that – you know, those specific types of laws that I refer to.
REP. MOORE: Thank you.
SEN. CARDIN: Well, thank you very much, Congresswoman Moore. And let me again
thank all of our special representatives and our representative from ODIHR.
The work you’re doing, as I said at the outset of this hearing, is extremely
important. It’s at the highest priority of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, and I
think the United States government has made this one of its highest priorities.
It was good to have you all here. If we were the reason for the three of you
to get together to talk more about common strategies, that was a very important
part of our strategy here. Each of you brings great talent. And Mr.
Ambassador, I think the way that you summarized the answer to Congressman
Smith’s question is what we all believe. And it was a very important message
that we need to echo and strengthen. And I did have a chance, when I was in
Kazakhstan, to see the embracement of tolerance by your – religious tolerance
by your leadership.
And that is a model, I think, for certainly, the region and I think,
internationally. So we thank you for your individual work that you’re doing
and we just urge you to coordinate as much as possible so that talent can be
utilized. And we certainly appreciate the work that ODIHR does in coordinating
and staffing this effort. And Sen. Voinovich’s point about the budget issues,
I think, is of interest to our commission and we’ll do the best we can to make
sure that you have the resources to carry out the work that you’re doing.
We always look forward to conferences. I think the point that was raised, also
by Sen. Voinovich, which is that, as we look to new conferences, we need to
figure out ways in which avoid an exercise in rehashing, but move forward and
advancing. And I thought his point about showcasing the best states and best
practices is something that we need to explore and look into, because that
could help, I think, all three representatives in your work. And with that,
let me again thank you on behalf of the U.S. Helsinki Commission and our
hearing stands adjourned.