MINELRES: US Helsinki Commission: Progress and Challenges: The OSCE Tackles Anti-Semitism and Intolerance

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Wed Jun 29 10:02:33 2005


Original sender: Helsinki Commission News <news@csce.gov>


HELSINKI COMMISSION DIGEST

UNITED STATES COMMISSION ON SECURITY AND COOPERATION IN EUROPE

Senator Sam Brownback, Chairman
Rep. Christopher H. Smith, Co-Chairman

Volume: 38
Number: 8 
June 21st, 2005  
www.csce.gov
Media Contact: James E. Geoffrey, II

[CORRECTED] PROGRESS AND CHALLENGES: 
THE OSCE TACKLES ANTI-SEMITISM AND INTOLERANCE
 
TOPIC:  OSCE Conference on Anti-Semitism and Intolerance
 
DATE AND LOCATION:  Cordoba, Spain – June 8-9, 2005
 
By Ron McNamara, International Policy Director
& Knox Thames, Counsel
 
The OSCE Conference on Anti-Semitism and on Other Forms of Intolerance
convened in Cordoba, Spain, from June 8-9, 2005. The conference, the
third since the Helsinki Commission’s 2002 groundbreaking hearing on
“Escalating Anti-Semitic Violence in Europe,” was well attended with
many participating States represented by senior-level officials.  New
York Governor George E. Pataki headed the U.S. Delegation.
 
Specific sessions were held on:
 
- Fighting anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination, and
promoting tolerance - from recommendations to implementation; 
- Anti-Semitism and the media; Education on the Holocaust and on
anti-Semitism; 
- Responding to anti-Semitic and hate-motivated crimes; 
- Fighting intolerance and discrimination against Muslims; 
- Fighting intolerance and discrimination against Christians and members
of other religions; and, 
- Fighting racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance and
discrimination. 
 
Specialized workshops were focused on: 
 
- Anti-Semitism and the Media; Implementation of OCDE Office for
Democratic Institutions and Human Rights’ (ODIHR) Taskings in the Field
of Tolerance and Non-Discrimination; 
- Promoting Tolerance and Ensuring Rights of Religion and Belief; and 
- Combating Racism and Discrimination against Roma and Sinti.  
 
Side events were organized to address: 
 
- Education on the Holocaust and anti-Semitism; 
- Combating hate speech online in the OSCE framework; 
- Anti-Semitism and satellite television; 
- Teaching the Holocaust and the History of Anti-Semitism in Catholic
Schools: Promoting Tolerance and Interfaith Understanding; 
- Why Should We Work Together? 
- The ODIHR’s Law Enforcement Officer Training Program for Combating
Hate Crimes; 
- The role of Parliaments in Combating Anti-Semitism; 
- The Anti-Semitism/terrorism Nexus, Hate sites on the Internet; and 
- Discrimination, Hate crimes and Intolerance on the grounds of
homophobia. 
 
The Conference was preceded by a one-day NGO Forum hosted by the Three
Cultures Foundation on June 7, 2005 in Seville.  The opening session
included presentations by Professors Gert Weisskirchen and Anastasia
Crickley and Ambassador Omur Orhun, who are the three Personal
Representatives of the outgoing OSCE Chair-in-Office, Slovene Foreign
Minister Dimitrij Rupel.   There was also a video presentation by U.S.
Helsinki Commission Chairman Senator Sam Brownback.
 
The Cordoba Conference was the product of intense negotiations following
last year’s Berlin Conference and the adoption of a number of specific
commitments by OSCE countries aimed at stemming the tide of
anti-Semitism and related violence.  Numerous participating States had
actively resisted the convening of a meeting exclusively focused on
anti-Semitism and instead argued in favor of a "holistic" approach to
tolerance issues.  As OSCE Chair-in-Office (CiO) Dimitrij Rupel put it,
"I also hope that Cordoba, and after Cordoba, a truly holistic approach
to combat all forms of discrimination and intolerance will prevail, as
this is the most effective way to address this issue."  
 
While supporting a broader approach, others, including the U.S. Helsinki
Commissioners, voiced concern that the focus on anti-Semitism as a
unique form of intolerance not be lost, especially given the dimensions
of the Holocaust and European history.  
 
Most participating States used the Cordoba Conference to reiterate their
commitment to combating anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance. 
Disappointingly few, however, cited concrete steps they are undertaking
to implement existing OSCE commitments.  One of the few exceptions was
the Solicitor General of the United Kingdom, who reported on the
evolution of anti-hate legislation in his country and a new law being
considered by Parliament to address anti-religious bigotry.  The Italian
and Polish delegations also noted some tangible progress.  
 
CiO Rupel reported on initiatives undertaken by the OSCE to improve
implementation of commitments made in Berlin.  He also warned that “we
must be vigilant against discrimination and show no tolerance for
intolerance,” a theme repeated by numerous subsequent speakers.  
 
U.S. Helsinki Commissioner Alcee L. Hastings addressed the Cordoba
Conference in his capacity as President of the OSCE Parliamentary
Assembly.  Hastings reminded participants of the role of
parliamentarians, including members of the Helsinki Commission, in
ensuring that the issue of anti-Semitism and related violence were given
priority in the OSCE framework. 
 
The most tangible results to come out of the Cordoba Conference was the
Cordoba Declaration
(http://www.osce.org/documents/cio/2005/06/15109_en.pdf), as well as
reports presented by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and
Human Rights (ODIHR) on "Combating Hate Crimes in the OSCE Region"
(http://www.osce.org/documents/odihr/2005/06/14915_en.pdf) and
"Education on the Holocaust and on Anti-Semitism"
(http://www.osce.org/documents/odihr/2005/06/14897_en.pdf).  The
declaration recognized that some forms of intolerance need proper
definition, and reiterated the Berlin Declaration’s  acknowledgement
that "international developments or political issues, including in
Israel or elsewhere in the Middle East, never justify anti-Semitism."  
 
According to the ODIHR reports, 13 participating States have not
provided any information on statistics, legislation and national
initiatives relating to hate crimes.  Of the 42 participating States
that have responded, only 29 countries have provided information and
statistics on hate crimes and violent manifestations of racism,
xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and intolerance.  The quality of information
varied widely – one country’s statistical submission consisted of a
single sentence.  
 
Beyond implementation issues and concerns, three outstanding questions
remain to be resolved: 
 
- Will the OSCE maintain a distinct focus on anti-Semitism or will the
issue be folded into a more generic tolerance rubric?  
- Will the current mandates for the three personal representatives be
extended?  
- What form will future follow-up, including the possible location of
future conferences, on tolerance-related matters take?  
 
There is also some concern that the Personal Representatives of the
Chair-in-Office have been hampered in undertaking their tasks, and have
been hamstrung by limitations that have been imposed on their
activities.  It is also unclear whether the newly incoming
Chair-in-Office will reappoint the three representatives or, if so, if
he will maintain their distinct portfolios.
 
Discussions in Cordoba did little to narrow differences on these
points.  The United States has been among the few stalwarts committed to
sustaining a particular focus on anti-Semitism.   At the same time, a
growing number of countries prefer a "holistic" approach, where distinct
issues are discussed under a generic theme.  
 
Governor Pataki in closing remarks stressed the need to move beyond
words: "We have all given our speeches in the best prose we can muster,
but there is more to combating anti-Semitism and intolerance than mere
speeches."  He urged that future follow-up focus on implementation;
endorsed the reappointment of the three Personal Representatives under
their existing titles; called for preserving a distinct focus on
anti-Semitism; supported continuing efforts to combat intolerance and
discrimination against Muslims, Christians, and other faiths; and urged
further institutionalization of tolerance and non-discrimination work. 
Pataki concluded, “We can talk, we can coordinate through the OSCE, but
the primary responsibility ultimately rests with the participating
States.”      
 
U.S. DELEGATION (All delegates named by U.S. Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice):
 
Governor George E. Pataki, Head of U.S. Delegation
Hon. Jennette Bradley, Treasurer, State of Ohio
The Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput, Archbishop of Denver and Commissioner,
U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom
Sander Ross Gerber, Chairman and CEO of the XTF Group and President of
the Gerber Capital Management Group
Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder, Simon Wiesenthal Center
Kamal Nawash, founder, Free Muslims Coalition
Rabbi David Zwiebel, Executive Vice President for Government and Public
Affairs, Agudath Israel of America


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