Commission on Security & Cooperation in Europe:
U.S. Helsinki Commission
The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights: Accomplishments
Committee Member Present:
Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD)
Ambassador Janez Lenarcic,
Director, Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights,
Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe
The Hearing Was Held From 2:29 p.m. To 3:27 p.m.,
Senate Room Number 210-212, Capitol Visitors Center, Washington, D.C., Senator
Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), CSCE, Presiding
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Federal News Service
CARDIN: Well, good afternoon, and let me welcome you all to this hearing of
the Helsinki Commission, in which we’re very honored to have Ambassador
Lenarcic here, the director of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human
Rights in the OSCE. Ambassador Lenarcic is a – is a familiar face and a person
who we have worked with for a long time and it’s a pleasure to have him here.
It underscores the importance of the work that you do in the Helsinki
Commission and the priorities that we place on the human dimension.
Since the Helsinki Final Act in 1975, human rights have formed an inseparable
and core part of the OSCE’s comprehensive concept of security. Agreement was
reached back in 1990 to create specialized institutions to assist the
participating states in implementing their human dimension commitments. And
based on U.S. proposal, the then Office of Free Elections was established in
Warsaw. It later was expanded to encompass human rights under the title it is
now know by as the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, or
better known as ODIHR.
In enhancing the role of ODIHR, the 1992 Helsinki Summit declared that the
participating states express their strong determination to ensure full respect
for human rights and fundamental freedom, to abide by the rule of law, to
promote the principles of democracy and, in this regard to build, strengthen
and protect democratic institutions as well as to promote tolerance throughout
I think the international community is well aware that the U.S. Helsinki
Commission has made human rights, the human dimension and the work of ODIHR our
top priority. We’re proud of the role that we’ve had in advancing many of the
most important human rights issues – from trafficking, where we now I think
have brought about the sharing of best practices to stop this modern form of
slavery; to the tolerance agenda, where we’re very proud of the role that we’ve
had in improving the capacity of OSCE through special representatives and
sharing, again, best practices among the participating states; to transparency
initiatives that we’re very proud of our initiative in those areas that have
put a spotlight on anti-corruption strategies in countries to advance that
basic right of good governance. And certainly we’ve made progress, but,
nonetheless, we still face significant issues.
While some OSCE countries have successfully transitioned to democracy, others
appear to be moving backwards. Several participating states have yet to hold
free and fair elections. Freedom of the media is threatened in many OSCE
states, where journalists are harassed, attacked and even killed for their
work. And the Internet and other digital media are restricted.
Nongovernmental organizations and human rights defenders face reprisal for
their work. Extremism laws are used to go after opposition activists and
nontraditional religious groups. Anti-Semitism, racism and discrimination
continue to result in hate crimes. Roma, Europe’s largest ethnic minority,
continue to face discrimination in education, employment, and housing. I
support ODHIR’s work to address these issues.
The OSCE itself also faces challenges. This year marks the 10th anniversary of
the Roma Action Plan and the OSCE’s first conference on racism, xenophobia and
discrimination. 2014 will mark not only the 10th anniversary of the OSCE
Tolerance Unit but also the adoption of the seminal Berlin declaration on
combating anti-Semitism. And I was very proud to be part of that U.S.
delegation to the Berlin meetings that resulted in that declaration.
However, even as we commemorate and approach these anniversaries, OSCE’s
efforts to address these issues face political problems. For two years in a
row, Russia has blocked all human-dimension decisions by the OSCE Ministerial
Council, including a proposal at the Dublin Ministerial last December which
would have strengthened the OSCE tolerance efforts. Agreement to hold a
high-level tolerance conference taking place today in Albania came only at the
last minute and significantly diminishing its impact.
I’d like to take this opportunity to applaud ODHIR’s 2011 Roundtable, 2012’s
hate crimes training and other outreach efforts to the seven (million) to 10
million people of African descent in Europe, who have been especially targeted
by hate groups in addition to challenges experienced by North American
African-descent population. African-descent civil society is still in great
need of additional capacity-building, and I hope ODHIR can build on these
I would also like to see ODHIR strengthen its work on gender issue and
assisting participating states with promoting equality of opportunity between
women and men. In this regard, I would like to acknowledge the presence in our
audience today of the OSCE chair-in-office, Special Representative on Gender
Issues June Zeitlin, and thank her for her work in this regard.
Ambassador Lenarcic, I understand you are working with the State Department to
arrange a visit to the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay in preparation for
the possible monitoring of any illegal proceedings related to it. I myself
have visited Guantanamo and I support you doing so as well as ODHIR’s involved
in monitoring the situation there. I believe the United States policy
concerning the remaining detainees should be transparent and in accordance with
acceptable standards. I look forward to your thoughts on how these and other
human rights efforts can be advanced by the OSCE.
I first got to know Ambassador Lenarcic when he chaired the OSCE Permanent
Council in Vienna during Slovenia’s 2005 chairmanship in office. After his
Vienna assignment, he was appointed Slovenia’s state secretary for European
affairs in 2006. He also served as a diplomatic adviser in the Office of the
Prime Minister and in the permanent mission to the United Nations in New York.
Ambassador Lenarcic was appointed director of the Office of Democratic
Institutions and Human Rights in July of 2008.
Welcome. We look forward to your testimony.
LENARCIC: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Ladies and gentlemen, I would like first to express my gratitude to you for
this opportunity. I’m very pleased and honored to be able, again, to testify
before this commission. I’m very much grateful for the consistent support that
this commission and the United States have extended to our office and its
I think that this meeting today is also an opportunity to look at the five
years that have passed since I appeared here for the first time back in
September 2008, as well as to look ahead – but not too far ahead because, as
you know, I’m entering my last year in this office.
Before I continue, in the interest of saving time for discussion, I would
request, or suggest that my prepared statement be put into the record.
CARDIN: Without objection, your entire statement will be put in the record.
LENARCIC: Thank you, sir. And I would limit then my introduction to a few
First, if we look back to all these years, there were many significant
developments and challenges throughout the OSCE area and around it. And these
developments, unfortunately, have led recently to what appears to be a mismatch
between the decreasing ability of decision-making bodies of the OSCE to adopt
timely and substantive and relevant decisions. And you mentioned that, Mr.
Chairman, in your introduction. And this is, on the other hand – on the other
hand, we have other parts of the organization, the same organizations, that are
responsible for implementing those decisions and are able more or less to do
their work. I’m talking about secretariat institutions, field offices and
One of the major factors that impacted the OSCE in these years was undoubtedly
the financial crisis that hit just after I appeared before you five years ago.
And this, obviously, has resulted in restriction of resources, of available
resources, but not only that. Some of the participating states have had to
economize and they did so by prioritizing immediate firefighting, I would call
it, over long-term fire prevention and protection. And that happened also
within the OSCE human dimension. The available resources have shrunk while the
challenges have increased.
Others, meanwhile, whether affected by that same economic crisis or not, have
continued to prioritize stability over human rights standards and system
continuity over systemic reforms. I think we have seen a situation developed
in OSCE, where some of the willing have become less able, while some of the
increasingly able have become less willing. And the result is that we have now
individual appetites for questioning existing commitments sometimes stronger
than the common desire to further strengthen them. And this is also visible in
what you noted in your introduction, Mr. Chairman: the absence of meaningful
human dimension decisions taken by the ministerial council over the last couple
But there is also the other part of the OSCE: overseeing of the institution’s
field operations and secretariat, and including, of course, of the
parliamentary assembly, which are trying to assist and support participating
states. And a lot has been over two and more decades in turning commitments
into practice and offering best practices that – for the participating states
and other regions and organizations to learn from them.
This part of the OSCE is the one that helped develop democratic institutions in
the war-torn region of the Balkans. This is the OSCE that has pioneered the
development of standards, methodologies and expertise in many fields. And this
is also the part of the OSCE whose accomplishments are little known, simply
because effective prevention of conflicts draws less attention than the
In short, I do see, after all these years, OSCE as a – to use the language of
enterprise – a profitable and well-functioning enterprise based on sound
principles but with an increasingly paralyzed boardroom. The main problem is
not so much that the discussions in that board room, which is the permanent
council, on meeting protocols and possibly new products that these discussions
require increasing amounts of both energy and time. The main problem is that
this paralysis in our boardroom, combined with the ongoing budgetary squeeze,
result in slowing down our assembly line, the assembly line which produced
well-tested and quality OSCE products.
Let me now go through some of these products. And I will try to focus only on
a few of the highlights here.
First, human rights defenders. Our office continues to work closely with civil
society and nongovernmental organizations in order to ensure that their voice
is heard in the OSCE and that they can play their fundamental role in human
rights protection. We try to ensure that they can operate in an enabling
environment, free from reprisals, harassment, and intimidation.
Unfortunately, in many countries, who we have witnessed in the past few years
that there is deterioration of the situation of human rights defenders. We
have seen disturbing developments where the environment for human rights
defenders to operate freely has become much more restricted. That’s why the
meeting of the civil society organizations on the margins of the Dublin
Ministerial last December made a strong call by producing a Declaration on
Human Rights Defenders. We will heed that call. And we launched a project
aimed at producing recommendations to participating states how to protect human
rights defenders, which is an old obligation of the OSCE-participating states
codified, if I may say so, already in Budapest in 1994. We will mark the 20th
anniversary of the Budapest document next year. And, in our view, this is a
good opportunity to recall this obligation – common obligation of OSCE
participating states to protect human rights defenders.
In the area of rule of law, I would like to highlight our trial monitoring
activities. Trial monitoring can be an important way to promote transparency
in the administration of justice and full adherence to fair trial standards.
Since 2008, we have conducted large trial monitoring projects in Armenia after
2008 presidential elections, in Belarus in the aftermath of the 2010 elections,
and currently in Georgia, where we monitor criminal proceedings against former
senior officials of the previous government; proceedings that were initiated
after the 2012 parliamentary elections there.
Of course, I wish to thank the United States for its continuous financial and
political support to these projects, which would not be possible if we had to
rely solely on our regular budgets.
You mentioned, Mr. Chairman, the anti-trafficking, where OSCE has pioneered
standards and commitments. I could tell you that over all these years, in
close cooperation with the special coordinator of OSCE on trafficking on human
beings, Mrs. Giammarinaro, we have been developing and promoting a human
rights-based approach in combating trafficking.
ODHIR was one of the first international bodies to raise the issue of
trafficking for not only sexual, but also labor exploitation by advocating for
a diversified approach to the identification of victims and assistance to
trafficked persons. We also specialized in establishment of compensation funds
and we advocated the access of victims to compensation for the losses that they
Gender – and I share your pleasure with seeing Mr. Zeitlin here – gender has
remained one of our most important activities over all these years. Our office
has attempted to mainstream the gender aspects into all – all – of its
Let me just illustrate this by our election related activities, where all
observation and assessment activities take into account the gender aspect of
elections. And we have also been active in promoting women’s political
participation throughout the OSCE and beyond, notably in the Mediterranean
partner countries. We have developed a plethora of tools in support to
OSCE-participating states and the field operations, for instance, the base line
study gender equality in elected office six-step action plan. So it implies
that if there is political will, six steps would do and improve the
participation of women in political and public life.
Freedom of peaceful assembly and association is one of those freedoms that have
come under increasing strain in the OSCE since 2008. In some participating
states, the space for free expression of these fundamental rights is shrinking
as a result of restrictive legislation and practices, including increased
scrutiny and monitoring of civil society activity through, for instance,
deployment of tax, labor and other inspections.
Another troubling development is the tendency to brand legitimate exercises of
freedom of peaceful assembly and association as the activity done by so-called
extremists or foreign agents. We are launching now a joint activity with the
Council of Europe’s Venice Commission to develop guidelines on freedom of
association. These guidelines will be designed to assist the participating
states in implementing their important commitments in this area and will
complement the existing joint guidelines on freedom of peaceful assembly that
we produced recently also together with the Venice Commission.
Mr. Chairman, you mentioned Roma and Sinti issues. Indeed, the OSCE action
plan on improvement of the situation of Roma and Sinti, which was adopted in
2003, was a landmark document. It was a pioneering document, but it remains
not implemented. This was the case in 2008 when I already reported to you
about our preparation of status report after five years since the adoption of
the Roma and Sinti action plan.
We are now preparing a second status report at the 10th anniversary of the
adoption of the action plan. I can already tell you that preliminary reading
of the background data that we have collected for this second status report
indicates that Roma and Sinti overall remain discriminated against, remain
vulnerable, and that sizeable communities live – continue to live in abject
poverty and on the margins of societies. And that all this is happening also
in countries that otherwise (are known ?) as well-developed ones.
On hate crimes, you are aware of our annual report, which clearly shows that
more needs to be done to develop the capacity to effectively address such
crimes. In many instances, law enforcement agencies and officers lack the
required knowledge and skills to recognize hate crimes as such and also to
offer effective and adequate victim protection.
And for these reasons, victims are often reluctant to report hate crimes and
that results in underreporting of this phenomena. We are developing a number
of tools and activities to assist participating states to improve their
performance in this area, notably by our program on training against hate
crimes for law enforcement. This is a success story I can say. To date, this
– through this program, we have trained more than 70,000 police officers in
Bulgaria, Croatia, Poland, and with the support of the OSCE mission in Kosovo,
also in Pristina. We are planning to continue this work this year and next in
Albania, Italy, where I will sign the memorandum next year, Montenegro and
Combating hate crimes is only one of our ongoing activities in the field of
promoting tolerance and nondiscrimination, which are much wider. We have a
variety of tools and activities in this area, in the areas of combating
anti-Semitism, combating discrimination against Muslims as well as of
Christians and members of other religions. We work closely together with the
special representative – personal representatives of the chairperson in office,
including Andy Baker, in this field. Next month, for instance, we will help
organize jointly a conference in Berlin on the security of Jewish communities.
With regard to freedom of religion or belief, you probably are aware of the
fact that we have overhauled the institutional structure at our disposal; there
is a new panel of experts on freedom of religion or belief that has been
established recently. It has 12 notable personalities serving in it and we
believe that it will allow us to improve our capacity to assist participating
states in meeting their obligations in the area of freedom of religion or
belief so that everyone will be able to exercise this freedom in whatever way
they wish to do it, when and where they wish to do it.
It is now more than two years since the events unfolded that became commonly
referred to as the Arab spring. I can report to you that our office has been
actively promoting closer cooperation between the OSCE and its Mediterranean
partners of cooperation. We have come particularly far with our cooperation
and support to the efforts by Tunisia in many fields, but we also are pursuing
expansion of this cooperation with others.
Mr. Chairman, of course, we have to – I have to also mention one of the major
activities of our office, which is election observation. We have deployed many
election observation missions over these years. We have cooperated in most
cases well with the parliamentary assembly of the OSCE and other parliamentary
I would single out the observation missions in the Russian Federation in
December 2011 and March 2012. Why? Because you will recall that five years
earlier, it was not possible for our office to monitor elections there due to
the restrictions imposed at that time. So there was a challenge how to
overcome that legacy. And I think that challenge was met. It was not easy.
It was not easy to overcome the mistrust and suspicion, but I think we were
able to do that and we were able to produce together with – on both cases, with
OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and other parliamentary partners two reports – two
assessments of those elections. And I am confident about the value of those
reports. There are many other election observation activities that are ongoing
and I do hope that there will be a good cooperation between out office and
parliamentary assembly, maybe a word about it a little later.
Before I go there, just one more thing. Election observation is not an end in
itself. We see it as only a stage in the longer process, a process which
should include the follow-up to recommendations that are usually contained in
our final reports. I’m pleased to note that that is a growing number of
participating states that do engaged in earnest in follow-up activities. And
this group includes the United States. As we speak, this week, the follow-up
visit is underway in order to present and discuss our final report from the
last November elections and to discuss its recommendations. I’m particularly
pleased the U.S. is engaging in this activity in earnest because I think it’s
important for the OSCE that the U.S. is able to show an example to others also
in this area.
A word about the cooperation with the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. I would
like to emphasize here before you that we are fully committed to cooperation
with our parliamentary assembly on the basis of the ’97 cooperation agreement
as endorsed by the ministerial council decision. That ministerial council
decision talks about election observation as a common endeavor of our two
institutions, ODHIR and OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, and other parliamentary
bodies as appropriate. And it calls for partnership. And we are committed to
I think that the previous president of the parliamentary assembly, Petros
Efthymiou, put it very well when he said that OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and
ODHIR have complementary roles to play. I fully agree with it and also have to
know that during his presidency of parliamentary assembly, our cooperation was
I would like to move towards conclusions, sir, with importance of the United
States leadership in the promotion of human rights, freedoms, rule of law and
democracy, importance which was clearly demonstrated over the past century and
also in the framework of the OSCE.
But as for any leadership, it is most effective when it is done by example. In
January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the transfer of the first detainees to
the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, we – it was with regret and dismay that
we had to issue a press release stressing that universal human rights standards
require that also detention of terrorist suspects should be accompanied by
concrete charges and that the persons detained under these charges shall be
immediately informed of them and brought before a competent judicial authority.
We also called for a swift closure of Guantanamo of – we called for
prosecution of the remaining detainees in accordance with international fair
trial standards or for their release.
And, most recently, President Obama echoed what international human rights and
democracy activists have been saying for years – that Guantanamo, I quote,
“hurts the United States in terms of its international standing,” end of quote,
and that the facility, quote, “likely created more terrorists around the world
than it ever detained,” end of quote.
The United States has traditionally aspired to play a role as both a leader and
example for others. If it wishes to do so, it must move, I believe, without
delay towards closing of the Guantanamo detention center.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank you once more for your kind
invitation. I would like to thank you and the commission and the United States
for its staunch, consistent support for our activities. I very much look
forward to our discussion and also to our continued cooperation for the
remainder of my term in this office. Thank you.
CARDIN: Mr. Ambassador, thank you for that very comprehensive overview of the
work under your portfolio. It certainly is a very ambitious agenda from the
point of view of the challenges that we have within the OSCE region.
I also appreciate you started with the – some of the procedural challenges that
we have. I think the OSCE has been one of the most successful consensus
organizations in modern history, but a consensus organization requires the
cooperation of all the participating states with a common objective, and a
willingness to sit down and listen as well as to voice concerns, and to
recognize that there are principles that we all need to improve upon. And by
the work of the OSCE, each of our states can become stronger in all three
baskets. And I think that’s the hallmark here.
I also thank you for bringing up the election monitoring. We think that’s one
of the basic responsibilities that we have. And I think we all are somewhat
feeling better today because of renewed commitments between the parliamentary
assembly and ODHIR to work out its issues. And, as I understand it, the most
recent observation teams have worked and it looks like we’re back on track on
the observation issues.
I am concerned about some suggestions being made by participating states that
they want more of the election monitoring decision-making done by consensus
rather than done in a professional manner between ODHIR, and the chair in
office, and the parliamentary assembly.
Can you just share with us – you know, we want to make progress on the process
issues. We certainly don’t want to backtrack. Can you just fill us in as to
whether we’re going to be able to move forward in a similar manner, as we have
in the past, in election monitoring?
LENARCIC: Now? Thank you, sir. I think your concern is very well justified.
I think that the attempts to place a greater share of the ODHIR’s or any other
OSCE institution’s activities under the consensus-based decision-making of the
permanent council can only result in hampering the activities of the
institutions. I think that such attempts must be resisted.
It was for a reason that OSCE decided to establish distinct institutions and
give them their mandates. It is necessary to allow these institutions – and I
think I’m talking about all three of them, all three of these institutions
established by the ministerial council, to be able to deliver on their mandate
without undo – without undo hindrance.
There are attempts, as you said, that important parts of ODHIR’s activities,
including in election observation, would be placed under this decision-making
authority of the permanent council. For instance, that – let’s say,
preliminary statement should first be discussed and agreed in the permanent
council. I think that such arrangement would inevitably result in the absence
of any meaningful assessments of election processes. Clearly, if every state
has a veto, they would prevent anything that would reflect negatively. It
would, in other words, spell the end of professional, independent and impartial
election observation. It would mean the end of election observation as a
professional activity which is devoid of the politics between – playing out
between the participating states.
CARDIN: I agree with you completely and that’s a matter that I can tell you
this commission will be watching very closely. I’ve had discussions with our
mission in Vienna on this issue. And we will continue to push very hard to
continue the professional manner in which the election activities have been
taking place within OSCE.
You mentioned the human rights defenders and protecting human right defenders,
which is something that is a very high priority to us. I’d like to put into
that a recent concern that’s been brought to our attention about NGOs and NGOs’
participation in OSCE activities and proposals made by Belarus and Russia that
would cause the vetting process to deny active participation by many of the NGO
Can you just bring us up to date on this issue as to whether we are – how well
NGOs are able to operate within the OSCE framework and within OSCE countries?
And what does the trend line here look like?
LENARCIC: Thank you, sir. I think that the – one of the unique features and
advantages of the OSCE is precisely the format of its human dimension events.
I think the OSCE is the only international organization which holds its human
dimension, human rights events in the format which is completely open to
nongovernmental organizations, to civil society representatives; but not only
open, it places them. It gives them place at the table and they can take the
floor and confront participating states with their views and suggestion.
Clearly, this can often be uncomfortable for some participating states. It’s
never comfortable when government policies are criticized, especially not in
front of others, but that’s what actually OSCE is all about. OSCE is about
peer pressure. OSCE is about peer review. And the civil society organizations
and nongovernmental organizations have a crucial role to play. And this role
was most recently reaffirmed or acknowledged again at the highest level at the
Astana summit, where the leaders of OSCE participating states acknowledge the
role of civil society organizations in helping them meet their OSCE
So I think it is of utmost importance to preserve the access of nongovernmental
organizations to OSCE conferences, to human dimension meetings. It is,
therefore, of utmost importance to not allow attempts to exclude this or that
civil society representative upon request of an individual state. There are –
there is one exception, according to OSCE rules. It is defined in the Helsinki
document from 1992, which stipulates that all NGOs will be able to participate
in OSCE human dimension events, except for those organizations and individuals
that advocate violence or justify terrorism. So this is the only exception. I
think that this arrangement is adequate.
There are ongoing complaints – ongoing complaints almost every year about
certain individual organizations appearing, appearing before – appearing at the
human dimension event. But those complaints usually – I would say, are an
issue between two or more participating states, because state A claims this
person should not be seated at the OSCE conference table because according to a
court decision in our country, that person was convicted of terrorist
activities. But that same person lives and works in another participating
state which obviously disagrees with that court judgment.
So this is an issue that in my view should be solved between the countries
concerned and not – not – at the conference itself. Certainly, we at ODHIR do
not see our role – our role as policing the human dimension events. We see our
role as opening the door to all those who wish to attend and participate. And
we don’t see our role as identifying those who are not supposed to attend and
throw them out.
CARDIN: I would just underscore the point that you made. I understand the
exception that’s there on participation, but I would argue that’s not for an
individual state’s determination, even if the event is in that individual
state. It has got to be a broader acceptance that the organization is
disqualified rather than it being suspicious that an NGO is being denied
participation because the host country doesn’t particularly like what they
stand for rather than being disqualified for the reasons that you mentioned.
So I think we have to be pretty aggressive in protecting the participation,
which is what we believe in as an organization.
I want to move to the issue that you mentioned, which I think is very, very
important: trial monitoring. In more and more countries, we’re finding that
countries that have transitioned into free and fair elections and to democracy,
after an election is over are using every tool at their disposal to crush their
opposition, their new opposition, including using the trial process in
imprisoning the opposition, denying them full rights to participate in the
government in order to try to maintain the power of their new – their new
election. The election may have been free and fair, but as a result of the
elections they’re taking steps that are really questionable as to the rights of
You’ve mentioned a couple of points in your opening comments about monitoring
trials that could very well be political in nature. And you also mentioned the
opportunity, freedom of expression, and the ability to effectively oppose the
government in power. It seems to me that we have some countries that have –
that we thought were pretty far along the way that require some attention today
that may resist that. How can we effectively put a spotlight on those concerns
and try to improve the conduct in these countries?
LENARCIC: Thank you. There are two firm commitments made by
OSCE-participating states to invite international observers. One widely known
is to invite international monitors for elections. Another one, which is less
known, is commitment to invite international observers to monitor trials. It
is as unequivocal as the first one. And we tried to use that. We tried to use
it in – on occasions, when there are – when there are concerns with regard to
the motivation for the trials, with regard to the fairness of the trials, or
with regard to the – to the circumstances that result in the – in the trials.
In all the three cases that I mentioned, Armenia, 2008; Belarus, 2010; and,
most recently, Georgia, we use these arguments – this unequivocal commitment
combined with the concerns that were due to circumstances in order to advocate
this kind of exercise.
CARDIN: Let me interrupt you just for one moment. I was aware that we had the
right to monitor trials. It seems to me we’re better off if we never have a
trial in some of these cases and that is there any way that we can work with
countries to say, don’t just try to find a criminal statute or invent a
criminal statute so the person you beat ends up in jail, but to really look at
the type of country you want to live in and understand that elections have
consequences. You won, but you’re – you won because of a free and fair
election. It’s your responsibility to maintain that. Understand that once the
indictments are there, you have the opportunity to monitor how the trial itself
takes place. It seems to me we want to prevent the intimidation factor to
start off with.
LENARCIC: That’s a strong point that you made, sir, but I don’t think that we
are in a position to prevent trials if prosecutors, you know, go ahead and
trials start, but we can monitor them. And we can – and the purpose of
monitoring is to ascertain to what extent the defendant was afforded fair trial
guarantees. And those fair trial guarantees are quite unequivocal and are
contained in a number of OSCE commitments. So there is a solid basis for our
work in monitoring the trials.
And there is also key added value in such monitoring. Every monitoring
exercise results in a comprehensive report, which, if it identifies significant
shortcomings, it also contains specific, concrete recommendations for the
country to undertake in order – what measures to take in order to improve its
judiciary, the functioning of a judiciary, its independence, as well as to
strengthen the fair trial guarantees.
I can tell you that the Armenian authorities worked with us seriously and
engaged with us intensively on the basis of our report from the trial
monitoring in that country. We’re still waiting for Belarus to work with us on
recommendations from our trial monitoring report in their case. I am
optimistic with regard to the readiness of Georgia and its authorities to work
with us on recommendations that will be part of our final report when we issue
CARDIN: Let me move on I guess beyond than just monitoring. We had the chair
in office here not too long ago when we brought up the Ukraine situation, where
the former leader was – is now in prison, and how the European institution has
found that that was a political action. Do you coordinate some of the work
that you do with the appropriate institutions within Europe that are monitoring
some of these activities?
LENARCIC: In the case that you mentioned, the case of former Ukraine prime
minister is the European Court of Human Rights that has been seized with the
matter and we – of course, that court is completely independent and autonomous.
We do, on the other hand, cooperate closely with another institution of the
Council of Europe, the so-called Venice Commission, on a number of issues
related to human rights, rule of law, independence of judiciary. We produce
join legal opinions about relevant pieces of legislation so there is good
cooperation with the Council of Europe.
CARDIN: Let me – I don’t want your comments on Guantanamo Bay to go without a
response. And my response is pretty brief. I agree with you, everything you
said, without equivocation.
I would add one additional point, and that is – in every one of our country –
every one of our states, we’re struggling with budget problems. And the cost
of Guantanamo Bay is astronomical. When you look at the comparable cost of
bringing the detainees to trial and housing them in a more mainstream penal
facility, the cost would be a fraction of what it’s costing the U.S. taxpayers
today in Guantanamo Bay.
Now, that’s not the reason to close Guantanamo Bay. That’s not the reason to
do everything you just said, but it’s another factor that I think needs to be
understood. So I hope that you will be aggressive in this and I can assure
that there are members of Congress that will be working on this issue with you
and members of our commission.
I want to get your thoughts on how we go to the next level. It’s been a decade
since the tolerance agenda really was in full stride. You mentioned the
document for the Roma population, and what was done, and tremendous commitments
made. And I agree with you, not enough progress has been made. I think we’ve
made significant progress on tolerance and very proud of what we’ve been able
to accomplish in sharing of best practices.
On gender issues, there are still significant problems in our region. We’ve
got to get beyond just the ability to run for office, but also deal with the
family issues and have to deal with the economic issues on gender.
What strategies would you recommend that we employ, those of us who are
interested in keeping the tolerance agendas and the equity agendas aggressive,
to take it to the next level, recognizing it’s now been a decade that we’ve
followed this strategy?
LENARCIC: From what we have experienced, the areas where things could
definitely be lifted to a higher level are at least two.
One is our training programs, like the one that I mentioned, training against
hate crimes for law enforcement. This is important because if hate crimes are
not recognized as such, then nobody sees it as a problem from the perspective
of tolerance and nondiscrimination. And hate crimes can be described as the
extreme form – extreme manifestation of intolerance and discrimination. In
that area, what really would be needed would be better collection of data by
all participating states. This is a perpetual problem that we are encountering
when we collect information that serves as a basis for our annual report.
We see that some states don’t even collect data. Some collect only part of the
data necessary. This data collection and statistics, these are important
things because you don’t have that, you don’t have the understanding of the
dimension of the problem. So this is one thing where we are trying to foster
greater efforts by the participating states to systematically collect data, to
analyze data, to convey that data to us so that we can – we can get the picture
of what the dimensions of the problems really are.
If somebody asked me today is the – are the incidents of hate crimes on the
rise or not, I couldn’t give you an answer. If you look at our annual report,
you will see some participating states with a high number of hate crime
incidents. But that is – does it mean that those crimes are more common in
that country? Not necessarily. More likely it is due to the fact that that
country is collecting its data more successfully and systematically.
So there are – these efforts should be upgraded, but on a strategic level I
think that tolerance and nondiscrimination issues, including issues connected
to with Roma, would need to be – would need to continue to be kept on the
agenda. Sometimes, one has the – one has the impression that there is no more
attention paid to these issues. And this comes at a particularly unfortunate
time. It is obvious that the current difficulties that many countries are
dealing with due to economic and financial situation the result – do result in
scapegoating members of minority, migrants, Roma and others. So we do see the
increase in that context of the manifestations of discrimination and
intolerance. So we should keep this item very high. And also this conference
that is taking place in Tirana this week is I think a welcome step in this
CARDIN: I agree. I think information is critically important. Statistics are
important. I think you will find that there are states that are doing this the
right way. The United States, I think our statically information on hate
crimes is pretty sophisticated. And it can be very informative as to where we
need to put our priorities.
I think there are other participating states that have equally strong
statically information. Some states don’t. And that’s where best practices
can help and that’s where I think the special representatives can help in
trying to promote the practices in states, at a minimum, to get the inform
information so we can evaluate.
I can assure you the commission wants to work with you in how we can strategize
to continue to keep a focus on these areas. The plight of the Roma is a high
priority of our commission and it will remain a high priority. Dealing with
the problems of anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim activities and anti-Christian
activities are going to be front and center for this commission. And gender
equality issues are going to be matters that we’re going to spend a lot of time
to make sure that we’ll move forward on. So these are issues that we have
promoted in the past, special conferences. We have promoted agendas at the
ministerial meetings and strategies.
What I would urge is that we come together and try to figure out the right
strategy to advance these issues moving forward, recognizing the procedural
hurdles that have been more difficult in recent years and also recognizing the
competing areas. You laid out a very comprehensive report and where there are
so many different areas. And the resources – and I don’t mean just financial
resources, just the resources have to be used in a most judicious way in order
to set priorities so we can make progress in each of these areas.
I can assure that this commission will strongly support your work. And we look
forward to your recommendations and advice as to how not only our commission,
but also the United States Congress and the administration can weigh in to help
advance the objectives of the human dimension within OSCE. We value very much
your recommendations and we want to make sure that you have the tools in order
to carry out your responsibilities. And we will continue to fight from a
procedural point of view to make sure that OSCE can continue to be a
functioning institution to advance the human dimension.
Thank you for your public service. Thank you for coming to the United States.
We very much appreciate that.
LENARCIC: Thank you.
CARDIN: The commission will stand adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 3:27 pm, the hearing was adjourned.]