MINELRES: Helsinki Commission Addresses the Rise of Hate Crimes and Discrimination in Europe

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Fri Nov 9 16:29:23 2007

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


234 Ford House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-6460
Hon. Alcee L. Hastings, Chairman
Hon. Benjamin L. Cardin, Co-Chairman

Media Contact: Lale Mamaux

For Immediate Release 

November 6, 2007 


(Washington, DC) Today, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Chairman
of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki
Commission), held a briefing entitled, “Combating Hate Crimes and
Discrimination in the OSCE.” Joining Chairman Hastings at the dais were
Helsinki Commissioners Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR), and Congresswoman
Hilda Solis (D-CA). The briefing focused on intolerance and
discrimination within the 56 countries that make up the Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The panel of speakers
included, Dr. Dou Dou Diene, United Nations Special Rapporteur on
contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and
related intolerance; Dr. Tiffany Lightbourn, Department of Homeland
Security, Science & Technology Directorate; and Mr. Micah H. Naftalin
and Mr. Nickolai Butkevich, UCSJ: Union of Councils for Soviet Jews. In
addition, Urs Ziswiler, the Ambassador of Switzerland, attended the
briefing and commented on the rise in xenophobic views in Switzerland. 

Chairman Hastings stressed, “Not only are hate crimes in the OSCE on the
rise, but discrimination is also an everyday experience for many persons
who live in OSCE countries, as many Roma and other minorities of
Turkish, African, south Asian, or other descent can attest to when they
attempt to apply for jobs, find housing, or even go to school.” 

Hastings went on to say, “Politicians and political parties are also
increasingly adopting anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant and xenophobic
rhetoric without receiving proper condemnation from their colleagues or
other public leaders. While censorship is not the answer, political
leaders do bear a unique responsibility to promote tolerance and mutual
respect amongst its citizenry, not to sow mistrust and discord.” 

Senator Smith commented, “For the past several years, I have watched
with alarm as right-wing extremist parties have become more popular.
These groups often espouse viciously anti-Semitic slogans, and appeal to
a 19th century form of European ethnic identity. I had hoped that this
identity had faded into the rubble of the last European war. But I may
have been wrong. In Hungary last month, 600 people publicly joined a
right-wing paramilitary group in a mass ceremony. Members wear apparel
reminiscent of Hungary’s World War II fascist government, and support an
ideology of xenophobia and bigotry. The ceremony was an unwelcome
reminder of a bitter past, to which I cannot believe any European would
willingly return.” 

Congresswoman Solis, Special Representative on Migration for the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE)
Parliamentary Assembly, noted: “I stand in strong support of finding
positive solutions to ending hate crimes and discrimination throughout
Europe. As Special Representative on Migration, I am very interested in
addressing these problems. I look forward to continuing my work with my
fellow OSCE colleagues to capitalize on the positive aspects of
migration in each of our countries.” 

As a result of the efforts of Helsinki Commissioners and other OSCE
Parliamentarians to address a spike in anti-Semitic incidents in Europe
in 2001, the OSCE has established a tolerance unit within its Office for
Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) that publishes an
annual hate crimes report, trains law enforcement on responding to hate
crimes, and developed numerous tolerance education initiatives that
address anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia, and intolerance and
discrimination against Muslims, Christians and members of other

The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the
Helsinki Commission, is a U.S. Government agency that monitors progress
in the implementation of the provisions of the 1975 Helsinki Accords.
The Commission consists of nine members from the United States Senate,
nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the
Departments of State, Defense and Commerce.

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