Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Testimony :: Statement of Hon. Christopher H. Smith
Chairman - Helsinki Commission


Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

"Milosevic's Crackdown in Serbia and Threat to Montenegro"

Opening Statement of the Honorable Christopher H. Smith, Chairman

Thursday, July 27, 2000, 9:30 - 11:30 a.m.

Room 2255 of the Rayburn House Office Building

While this is the end of the last week before a congressional recess, with an active season of democracy in action
ahead of us in the United States, I felt it was nonetheless critical that the Helsinki Commission, which I chair, hold
this hearing today.

The Commission has a mandate to monitor human rights, which are being blatantly violated in Serbia and are at
risk in Montenegro, and to speak out against those responsible for these violations. In this case, the perpetrator
continues to be Slobodan Milosevic and his regime. Moreover, the Congress needs to be informed of ominous
developments in Belgrade, because there is near universal agreement that there can be no long-term stability in
southeastern Europe - the stability necessary for the United States and our friends and allies to finish their mission
in the region - until there is democratic change in Serbia itself.

Many of us in the U.S. Congress are deeply concerned about the situation in Serbia and Montenegro, and we
want to do what we can to help. There have been many Commission hearings on the former Yugoslavia since its
violent disintegration in 1991, but two previous hearings focused specifically on the struggle for democracy in
Serbia and one, held this last February, focused on promoting and protecting democratic development in

The Congress had also pressed the Administration early on not to deal with Milosevic, and we have supported
significant increases in the amount of assistance for building democracy in Serbia as well as for economic stability
and reform in Montenegro. I am hopeful there will be further legislative efforts in this regard.

In addition, at the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly held in Bucharest, Romania, earlier this month, we discussed
the issue with our European parliamentarian colleagues - the Russians and Romanians in particular - and
successfully passed a resolution condemning the repressive measures taken by the regime of Slobodan Milosevic
to suppress free media, to stop student and other independent movements, and to intimidate political opposition in
Serbia. I plan to insert the text of this resolution, put forward by Senator George Voinovich along with
Representative Steny Hoyer, in the record of this hearing.

We are fortunate to have before us today a panel of real experts on the situation in Serbia, people who are part of
the struggle for democratic change in that republic. First, we have Bogdan Ivanisevic, a researcher for Human
Rights Watch who has been reporting regularly on the attacks on independent and opposition forces in Serbia,
including the student movement Otpor, or Resistance. Next, Stojan Cerovic is a well known journalist for the
independent magazine Vreme, or Time, in Serbia, and is currently a senior fellow at the U.S. Institute for Peace.
Then, we have Branislav Canak, president of the independent trade union Nezavisnost, or Independence. Mr.
Canak testified before the Commission in late 1996. We are glad to have you back.

Finally, we are equally fortunate to have a representative of the Montenegrin Government, David Dasic, from
Montenegro's trade mission here in the United States, who will present his views on the situation, specially in light
of the recent constitutional amendments Milosevic has made to perpetuate his power and bring Montenegro under
his control.

On behalf of the Commission, I welcome you all here and look forward to your testimony.