Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Testimony :: Statement of Hon. Steny H. Hoyer
Ranking Member - Helsinki Commission

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Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Hearing on: “Kosovo’s Displaced and Imprisoned”

February 25, 2000

STATEMENT OF STENY H. HOYER

MR. CHAIRMAN, THE SUBJECT OF OUR HEARING TODAY – KOSOVO’S DISPLACED AND
IMPRISONED – IS ONE WE URGENTLY NEED TO ADDRESS. ONE MAY ASK, “WHY?” WHY
SHOULD WE CARE ABOUT THOSE WHO, IN SOME FAR OFF DISTANT LAND, HAVE BEEN
FORCED FROM THEIR HOMES, SEPARATED FROM THEIR FAMILIES AND, IN THE CASE OF
THE ALBANIAN PRISONERS, DEPRIVED OF THEIR FREEDOM? TO ME, HAVING SERVED
ON THIS HELSINKI COMMISSION NOW FOR 15 YEARS, THE ANSWER IS CLEAR. WE
SHOULD CARE, BECAUSE ONLY WITH RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS CAN THERE BE
TRUE PEACE, AND THE VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN ONE COUNTRY IS A LEGITIMATE
CONCERN TO ALL AS A SOURCE OF INSTABILITY. THE PRINCIPLES OF THE HELSINKI
FINAL ACT ARE NOT MERELY NEGOTIATED COLD WAR RHETORIC. THEY HAVE REAL
MEANING, PROBABLY NOWHERE MORE SO THAN IN THIS COUNTRY, GIVEN OUR OWN
DEMOCRATIC IDEALS AND OUR SACRIFICES DURING THE WORLD WARS OF THE EARLY
AND MID-20TH CENTURY.

IT IS MY HOPE, AS WE ADDRESS THE CURRENT CRISIS IN MITROVICA AND ELSEWHERE
IN KOSOVO, BOSNIA AND THROUGHOUT SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE, THAT WE NOT LOSE
SIGHT OF OUR PRINCIPLES. PEOPLE WHO WANT TO RETURN TO THEIR HOMES ARE NOT
THE SOURCE OF INSTABILITY; THE THUGS WHO FORCED THEM FROM THEIR HOMES
ARE. THE PEOPLE WHO LANGUISH IN SERBIAN PRISONS ARE NOT THE CAUSE OF
ETHNIC TENSIONS; THE WAR CRIMINALS WHO TOOK THEM AS THEY FLED KOSOVO ARE.
SO-CALLED “ANCIENT HATREDS” AMONG THE POPULATIONS ARE NOT TO BLAME FOR
RAPE, TORTURE AND WANTON DESTRUCTION; MILOSEVIC AND HIS MURDEROUS
MINIONS ARE. IN SAYING THESE THINGS, I DON’T MEAN TO SIMPLIFY AN ADMITTEDLY
COMPLEX SITUATION. I URGE THOSE IN THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY DEALING WITH
THESE ISSUES NOT TO GET LOST IN THE COMPLEXITIES AND USE THEM AS AN EXCUSE
FOR INACTION. THE CURRENT VIOLENCE IN KOSOVO MUST BE CONDEMNED, MR.
CHAIRMAN, AND ALL THOSE RESPONSIBLE FOR CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR, REGARDLESS OF
ETHNIC BACKGROUND, MUST BE BROUGHT TO JUSTICE.

MANY OF US HERE ON THE HELSINKI COMMISSION WERE IN ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA,
FOR THE OSCE PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY SESSION LAST JULY, WHERE WE TOOK THE
INITIATIVE TO RAISE THE NEED TO PROTECT THE MINORITY POPULATION IN KOSOVO, TO
GET THE DISPLACED BACK HOME AND TO MAKE THE MILOSEVIC REGIME RELEASE
THOSE ALBANIANS WHO ARE UNJUSTLY IMPRISONED IN SERBIA. SINCE THEN, THESE
ISSUES HAVE COME UP IN OUR LEGISLATIVE WORK, AND CHAIRMAN SMITH,
COMMISSIONERS LAUTENBURG AND CARDIN, ALONG WITH REPRESENTATIVE ELIOT
ENGEL AND OTHERS, HAVE BEEN PARTICULARLY ACTIVE IN FOUR AREAS – REFUGEE
QUESTIONS, WAR CRIMES PROSECUTION, SERBIAN DEMOCRATIZATION, AND THE
INCARCERATION OF KOSOVAR ALBANIANS IN SERBIA. I HAVE JOINED YOU IN THESE
EFFORTS IN THE PAST AND, AS WE BEGIN A NEW SESSION OF CONGRESS, I HOPE THAT
WE CAN MAINTAIN MOMENTUM HERE IN THE CONGRESS THAT WILL LEAD TO AND
SUPPORT STRONGER ACTION IN THE BALKANS.

I WISH TO CONCLUDE, MR. CHAIRMAN, BY NOTING MY PARTICULAR INTEREST IN THE
RELEASE OF THE ALBANIAN PRISONERS IN SERBIA. WE HAVE SEEN PICTURES OF
FLORA BROVINA AND ALBIN KURTI; SOME HAVE EVEN MET THEM. WHETHER THE
NUMBER OF SUCH PRISONERS IS 1,000, 2,000 OR 3,000, BEHIND THE NUMBERS ARE
REAL PEOPLE, INNOCENT PEOPLE WHO TOOK THE RISK OF GETTING INVOLVED IN
ACTIVITIES TO IMPROVE THE LIVES OF OTHERS. IT IS UNFORTUNATE THAT THEIR
RELEASE WAS NOT PART OF THE AGREEMENT CONCLUDING THE CONFLICT IN KOSOVO,
AND I URGE PRESIDENT CLINTON AND THE LEADERS OF OTHER COUNTRIES NOT TO
ALLOW THIS ISSUE TO DROP IN DETERMINING POLICIES TOWARD BELGRADE. THESE
PEOPLE MUST BE RELEASED. PERIOD.

THANK YOU MR. CHAIRMAN. I LOOK FORWARD TO HEARING FROM OUR WITNESSES.