Helsinki Commission Hearing on the OSCE
Central Asia policies could breed further threats to stability

Received via e-mail, 11 October 2001

The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) held a hearing October 3, 2001 on U.S. policy toward the Vienna-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The Administration was represented by Ambassador A. Elizabeth Jones, the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs (and former Ambassador to Kazakhstan), and Lorne Craner, the Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

In her prepared testimony, Ambassador Jones specifically commented on the situation in Central Asia and the Caucasus as follows:

In Central Asia and the Caucasus, OSCE continues to look for ways to foster human rights, religious freedom, and democratic development, while at the same time addressing urgent security, environmental, and economic needs. Several of these states face real security threats. However, if human rights and religious freedoms are not respected, the governments will aggravate the situations they are trying to address and their policies will breed further threats to stability.

This is the theme that representatives of Kazakhstani opposition have been stressing in all of their discussions with both the Congress and the Administration.

Also, Mr. Craner had the following to say in his prepared statement:

In the last month the world has changed dramatically. Some people have expressed concern that, as a result of the September 11 attack on America, the Administration will abandon human rights. I welcome this hearing today to say boldly and firmly that this is not the case. Human rights and democracy are central to his Administration's efforts, and are even more essential than they were before September 11. They remain in our national interest in promoting a stable and democratic world.

During the question period, the Chairman of the Helsinki Commission, Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colorado), expressed concern about the deterioration of the human rights situation in the five countries of Central Asia and noted the views of some people that the repression in these countries called into question whether such countries should be allowed to continue as OSCE members. Speaking for himself, he warned that the governments of Central Asia seem to be using their membership in the OSCE and adherence to that organization's principles as cover for their abuses at home. He noted, in this connection that many OSCE governments say one thing at OSCE meetings but act in a contrary manner at home.

Ambassador Jones acknowledged these points and the troublesome contradictions that are involved in the behavior of some OSCE countries. Nevertheless, she said that in her experience as U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan, she found it very useful -- and an opportunity, in fact -- to be able to cite Kazakhstan's commitment to the OSCE's principles as well as statements by Kazakhstan at OSCE meetings in her efforts to persuade the government of Kazakhstan that it was not in the country's long term interest to stifle human rights.

Received via e-mail, 11 October 2001