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15 ottobre 2009 - Rassegna stampa

Hearing of the commission on security & cooperation in Europe (Helsinki commission) ( part 2 )

This means having the OSCE/ODIHR making more extra-budgetary funding requests for tolerance and nondiscrimination projects, and having OSCE member states answer that call.

I believe this begins with the three of you that are sitting down here and your counterparts in ODIHR leadership in laying out a strategic plan of goals and objectives. For example, do you feel that ODIHR chief Janez Lenarcic and tolerance & nondiscrimination head Ms.

Hohenberg are being responsive to your respective needs and concerns as personal representatives of the OSCE chairman-in-office? Does each of you personally have the resources, the funds, to carry out your respective responsibilities?

What is your candid assessment of the resources needed by the OSCE and ODIHR in order to complete your respective goals in promoting tolerance of Jews, Muslims and Christians throughout the OSCE region?

Are the OSCE and ODIHR staff members that you work with in Warsaw sufficient to get their work done? What is your assessment of the personnel resources available at ODIHR?

I understand from my staff that the only way OSCE member states can provide additional assistance to ODIHR activities is when such funds are formally requested through an electronic extra- budgetary OSCE project request. Is this process effective? Is the OSCE bureaucracy requesting funds for projects you deem to be of high priority needs: for example, for police, for training for prosecutors, for judges? And most important I think is education, education, education. Do the countries you’re working with have the money so that they can get information out in their respective countries about educating people in terms of those issues that you’re concerned with?

From conversations with my good fri Rabbi Baker, I understand that there continues to be need for financial investment as well as good data going into OSCE’s online tolerance information system database, TANDIS, that records incidents of intolerance in the OSCE region. How could we diplomatically ensure that OSCE states fulfill their commitment regarding data collection, and putting it into the electronic system? And what level of continued financial requirement is required to ensure the success and efficacy of this electronic database?

Basically, what I’m hopeful for is that in the next several months of really laying out what needs to be done and the resources you need to have to be effective in getting your job done. Once we’ve identified that, then we can go from there to figure out how we can try to respond to your needs. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SEN. CARDIN: Thank you, Sen. Voinovich. Let me introduce the three special representatives: First, Rabbi Andrew Baker, who serves as the personal representative on combating anti-Semitism.

Rabbi Baker is director of the international Jewish affairs at the American Jewish Committee. Since his appointment by the Greek chairman earlier this year, he has made country visits to Latvia, Bosnia, Herzegovina and Spain.

Ambassador Adil Akhmetov serves as the personal representative on combating intolerance and discrimination against Muslims. He was appointed in June. The ambassador is secretary of the committee on international relations, defense and security and a member of the senate of the parliament of Kazakhstan.

Mario Mauro serves as personal representative on combating racism, xenophobia and discrimination, also focusing on intolerance and discrimination against Christians and members of other religions.

A member of the European parliament, he is a member of the foreign affairs and is a member of the delegation for relations with the United States. He previously served as one of the European parliament’s vice presidents. And lastly, I want to note the presence of the personal representative, or, accompanied by Floriane Hohenberg, the head of the tolerance & nondiscrimination department of ODIHR, who we welcome and have as a resource during this hearing. Thank you very much for being here. We’ll start with Rabbi Baker.

RABBI ANDREW BAKER: Sen. Cardin, thank you very much. It’s a great honor to be here but also a pleasure to be here before you, before Congressman Hastings, Sen. Voinovich, Congressman Smith.

I don’t know if I’m blessed or cursed with the memory of knowing how these processes began, in going back to some years now, but I do know how most of these efforts — the existence of this department at ODIHR, the presence here of these personal representatives — almost all of these efforts in combating intolerance started here; started with the Helsinki Commission and efforts from members of Congress to push the bureaucracy, and it wasn’t easy. So when we look back, I think there’s much we can take some pride in and, again, expressing thanks to you.

I also want to thank, of course, the Greek chairmanship because they’ve afforded me this opportunity, and have really given me the freedom and the flexibility to take up this issue. As you’ve indicated, I have already issued three formal country visit reports, but since then I’ve also paid visits to Romania and to Slovakia and have schedule one more visit to Hungary in November. So this is all part of this process.

Let me, in light of that, just present a few of the main concerns in combating anti-Semitism that have become apparent to me this year from those visits, from discussions as well with Jewish community leaders. And I’ll present here somewhat of an abridged version of my written testimony.

An essential element of the problem in many countries is the presence of anti-Semitism in public discourse. It is offensive, pernicious in its own right, but it can also contribute to a climate which poses a security threat to Jews and to Jewish institutions. A capacity to counter this anti-Semitism is frequently lacking.

In my testimony, I review what you have in various countries, but those experiences show that successful prosecution, conviction of these laws ts to be quite limited. Many European countries do have laws which restrict or punish hate speech. They are inted to address incitement against religious or racial hatred as it may appear in public speeches, in newspapers, in other media, on the Internet. It includes, of course, fomenting anti-Semitism and, in some cases, also Holocaust denial. Rarely is the problem the legislation itself, but rather it is the infrequent and often unsuccessful record of employing it.

Putting it simply, many hate speech laws have the uninted consequences of letting political leaders of the hook. In the United States and in other countries with strong free speech protections, manifestations of racism, of anti-Semitism, of other extremist views in public discourse are generally addressed — and frankly, in many cases, can only be addressed — by strong and swift rebukes from political and civic leaders. In this way, such hateful speech can be marginalized, isolated.

But in countries with legislative remedies, some political leaders will refer to the legal process as a reason or an excuse not to speak out. As we see in practice, these legal decisions often take months. In Spain, you had two cases; each took more than 7 years before they were actually adjudicated in a complete path.

And in the meantime, there is no clear message being delivered that such hateful speech is unacceptable.

Consider, too, that among some mainstream political leaders, they fear the success of extremist movement. So one could say they see calculated benefits in remaining silent or leaving this somewhat ambiguous.

There are also special problems with countries of a Communist or authoritarian past. Because all speech was once monitored and controlled, prosecutors and judges today may be reluctant to pursue cases these cases of hate speech even though laws exist on the books.

There needs to be, I think, some education here, at least within this framework; that it’s possible to control or prosecute hate speech while still maintaining, in all other areas, a vigorous policy of protecting free speech.

(continues)

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