Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Testimony :: Hon. Joseph R. Pitts
Member - Helsinki Commission

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Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this very important and timely hearing on OSCE Cooperation in the War on Terrorism. It is vital that the international community work together to fight this scourge that affects our nation and the entire world. I want to express my appreciation for the various governments in Western Europe, Eastern Europe and Central Asia who are working with us as we seek to eliminate the sources of terrorism that threaten us today.
We must continue to work even more closely together as the fight against terrorism continues.

As the issue of terrorism is addressed, however, it is very important that human rights issues are not left behind. Unfortunately, as some governments have addressed terrorism issues, they have done so in a way that violates fundamental human rights, particularly freedom of religion. It is clear that a number of governments, particularly in Central Asia, face a serious threat from extremist elements in their societies and it is proper that criminal actions are addressed in a clear manner. Sadly, the manner in which some governments have chosen to deal with extremist elements has been to throw a net out that captures not only terrorist elements, but innocent people as well. The mistreatment and subsequent anger of the innocent people reportedly has actually driven people into the arms of the extremists. It is vital that Central Asian and other governments carefully craft their response to extremists so that innocent people and their families are not harmed and their rights not violated. In addition, governments need to ensure that their response to terrorist elements is not used to squelch legitimate political opposition. An open society means that people disagree with each other, that people practice different religions, that different cultures and customs are appreciated and fostered. An open society with diversity is a rich society. I urge all OSCE nations to thoroughly and thoughtfully address the threat of terrorism so that governments act without violating the fundamental human rights of all people.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I look forward to hearing from our distinguished witnesses.