Helsinki Committee for Human Rights















Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty Reports Chairman Smith's Pledge To Push For ICC Indictment Of Belarusian President Lukashenka

U.S. Congressman Pledges To Push For ICC Indictment Of Belarusian President Lukashenka

WASHINGTON, RADIO FREE EUROPE/ RADIO LIBERTY -- The chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission has pledged to call on the Obama administration to push for the indictment of hard-line Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Wednesday, Nov. 16th at 6:00 pm

After exposing the largest tax fraud in Russian history, Magnitsky was wrongly arrested and tortured in prison. Six months later he became seriously ill and was consistently denied medical attention despite 20 formal requests. On the night of November 16, 2009, he went into critical condition, but instead of being treated in a hospital he was put in an isolation cell, chained to a bed, and beaten by eight prison guards for one hour and eighteen minutes. Sergei Magnitsky was 37 years old and left behind a wife and two children. Those responsible for this crime have yet to be punished and his story has become a global human rights cause and is emblematic of corruption, violence, and impunity in Russia.

Please join the Helsinki Commission on the second anniversary of Magnitsky’s death for a performance of Russian playwright Elena Gremina’s celebrated theatrical interpretation of Magnitsky’s final moments. The play juxtaposes moving and chilling testimony and documents from Magnitsky's diary; a radio interview with his mother; two judges; a prison doctor and paramedic; an investigator; and a young ambulance paramedic.

“One Hour Eighteen” is produced by Philip Arnoult’s Center for International Theatre Development, with Russian director Yury Urnov and American actors.

The performance lasts just under an hour and will be followed by a staff briefing and discussion

Media Contact: Shelly Han

November 15, 2011

2:00 p.m.

Please join the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe for a heaing that explores the nexus between sectarian violence and democracy.

On Sunday October 9, 2011, 25 people were killed and more than 300 injured when the
Egyptian military attacked a peaceful group of Coptic Christians protesting the burning of a church in Aswan. In what has been deemed the “Massacre at Maspero,” referring to the location of the demonstration, witnesses say the army fired on the demonstrators with live ammunition and plowed into the crowd with armored vehicles. The military denied the use of live ammunition and claimed that their soldiers were attacked by an armed mob. The military has arrested at least 28 people, almost all Copts, including prominent blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah, and brought them before
military prosecutors. The hearing will focus on violence perpetrated against the Coptic Christians in Egypt, the implications of the events for that community and the current Egyptian leadership, and prospects for the consolidation of democracy in Egypt.

WASHINGTON— U.S. Helsinki Commission leadership today expressed dismay and alarm over the selective and politically motivated prosecution and conviction of Yuliya Tymoshenko. Today, she was sentenced to 7 years in prison for executive decisions she made in 2009 when she was prime minister.

“The politically motivated conviction of Ms. Tymoshenko starkly illustrates the undoing of democracy in Ukraine,” stated Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (NJ-04). “Right after the Orange Revolution Ukraine was a beacon for hope for other post-Soviet states; now this beacon is almost extinguished. The prosecution and verdict in the Tymoshenko case call into grave question Ukraine’s commitment to OSCE human rights, democracy and rule of law standards. Her conviction bans her from office for the next three years, which raises serious doubts about whether Ukraine’s 2012 elections can meet OSCE standards for democratic elections, and calls into serious question Ukraine’s suitability to assume the Chairmanship of the OSCE in 2013.”

“This is a serious blow to democracy in Ukraine,” declared Co-Chairman Benjamin L. Cardin, (MD). “The highly selective prosecutions of ranking members of the previous government, most notably today’s politically motivated conviction of former prime minister Yuliya Tymoshenko, fly in the face of Ukraine’s often-asserted aspirations and efforts to integrate into the European Union. The Helsinki Commission and United States have strongly and consistently supported Ukraine’s European aspirations, which offer the best assurance of Ukraine’s future as an independent, democratic and flourishing state. Unfortunately, the Tymoshenko conviction only jeopardizes these efforts.”

According to U.S. State Department and various NGO reports, the state of democracy and human rights in Ukraine has deteriorated since Viktor Yanukovych was elected President in February 2010. Worrisome trends include consolidation of power in the presidency; weakening of checks and balances; backpedaling on freedoms of expression and assembly; various forms of pressure on media and civil society groups (including the recent closure of three opposition television channels in Kharkiv); and seriously flawed local elections. Endemic corruption continues unabated, with weak rule of law and lack of an independent judiciary.

Of immediate concern are selective prosecutions of high ranking members of the previous government. On October 11, Yulia Tymoshenko received a sentence of 7 years on charges of exceeding her authority as prime minister by agreeing to a 2009 gas deal with Russia that prosecutors say harmed Ukraine’s economy. Both the European Union and U.S. (including the Helsinki Commission) have repeatedly criticized the trial as contravening European values, in effect criminalizing a political decision, which has harmed Kyiv’s efforts at closer integration with the EU, specifically Ukraine-EU Free Trade and Association agreements.



United Nations Human Rights Committee

The United Nations Human Rights Committee is a United Nations body of 18 experts established by a human rights treaty, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The Committee meets for three four-week sessions per year to consider the five-yearly reports submitted by the 172 States parties to the ICCPR on their compliance with the treaty, and any individual petitions concerning the 116 States parties to the ICCPR's First Optional Protocol. The Committee is one of ten UN human rights treaty bodies, each responsible for overseeing the implementation of a particular treaty.
The UN Human Rights Committee should not be confused with the more high-profile UN Human Rights Council, or its predecessor, the UN Commission on Human Rights. Whereas the Human Rights Council (since June 2006) and the Commission on Human Rights (before that date) are UN political bodies: composed of states, established by a UN General Assembly resolution and the UN Charter, and discussing the entire range of human rights concerns; the Human Rights Committee is a UN expert body: composed of persons, established by the ICCPR, and discussing matters pertaining only to that treaty.
The aims and objectives of the state reporting system under the ICCPR were discussed in General Comment 1 of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR). CESCR concluded the State Reporting System was to be more than a procedural requirement, but additionally meet further aims and objectives.
During the process of state reporting, NGOs may indicate their interest to the secretariat on a particular state's report and then prepare a submission to be considered alongside the state report. The input of non-governmental organisations allows for an assessment on the state of civil, social and political rights and takes into account such assessments in the view of organisation that may to be affected by ICCPR principles. The utility of NGO input has been noted by the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna 1993 in its concluding Declaration, in the protection of human rights and in humanitarian services. NGO reports also give the public an opportunity to assist in the assessment of the government's overall adherence to the Covenant or on particular matters.
These reports may be assessed prior to the meeting or in some circumstances an NGO may be admitted to the meeting. Consequentially, the NGO may take a record of the meeting, facilitating dissemination of information back to the state concerned.
Country organizations The Helsinki Committees

Belarus: Belarus Helsinki Committee
Bulgaria: Bulgarian Helsinki Committee
Croatia: Croatian Helsinki Committee
Hungary: Hungarian Helsinki Committee
Rep. of Macedonia: Helsinki Committee for Human Rights of the Republic of Macedonia
Serbia: Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia
International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights

The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) was a self-governing group of non-governmental, not-for-profit organizations that act to protect human rights throughout Europe, North America and Central Asia. A specific primary goal was to monitor compliance with the human rights provisions of the Helsinki Final Act and its Follow-up Documents.
It was founded in 1982, inspired in part by an appeal from Dr. Andrei Sakharov for the creation of a "unified international committee to defend all Helsinki Watch
Group members", and also to co-ordinate their work.

The IHF was founded in response, both to provide an organization which the various independent Helsinki committees could use to support each another, as well as provide an international body to strengthen their work.

The original members were the independent Helsinki committees of Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United States; an international secretariat was established in Vienna. The secretariat supported and provided liaison member Helsinki committees and associated human rights groups, and represented them at the international political level. At the time IHF was dissolved, it had forty-four member committees.

The IHF also had direct links with individuals and groups supporting human rights in countries where no Helsinki committees exist. In addition to gathering and analyzing information on human rights conditions in OSCE countries, the IHF acted as a clearing house for this information, disseminating it to governments, inter-governmental organizations, the press and the public at large.

Karl zu Schwarzenberg served as chairman of the federation from 1984 to 1991. The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights was awarded the European Human Rights Prize in 1989, jointly with Lech Wałęsa.

In January 2008, an Austrian court convicted the IHF's former financial manager, the Austrian Rainer Tannenberger, of the embezzlement of €1.2 million. Tannenberger was sentenced to three years in prison, with two of them suspended. The IHF's resulting insolvency had driven it to file for bankruptcy in Austria, its country of registration, and to be dissolved on 27 November 2007.


Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch is an international NGO based in New York City, USA, that works with human rights issues.

The organization was started under the name Helsinki Watch in 1978 to monitor the Soviet Union's compliance with the Helsinki Accords. Other watch organizations were started to cover other parts of the world. They were united in 1988 and formed Human Rights Watch.

Whereas most other groups are focused on advocacy and public pressure , HRW's specialty is the production of reports, to establish the details needed for others to do advocacy work. Major issues raised by the organization in its reports include social and gender discrimination, government corruption, and abuses in criminal justice systems in many nations.

Human Rights Watch was one of six international NGOs that founded the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers in 1998. HRW later spun of several regional Watch groups, e.g., Americas Watch,..., and Index on Censorship, a UK-based group monitoring the freedom of the press around the globe.

Human Rights Watch is also a member of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange, a virtual network of non-governmental organisations that monitors free expression violations worldwide and campaigns to defend journalists, writers and human rights activists.

Like most human rights groups, Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty.


The Helsinki Committees for Human Rights exist in many European countries (the OSCE region) as volunteer, non-profit organizations devoted to human rights and presumably named after the Helsinki Accords.

They used to be organized into the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights based in Vienna, but now bankrupt due to financial fraud within its organisation.
The Helsinki Committees began as Helsinki Watch groups.
The first one was founded in the Soviet Union in 1976, the second in 1977 in Czechoslovakia, the third in 1979 in Poland, etc.
In 1982, representatives of several of these committees held an International Citizens Helsinki Watch Conference and founded the IHF.
In 1992, a British Helsinki Human Rights Group was established in the UK, but this group has always been completely independent of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights.
The UK's official representative in the IHF is the British Helsinki Subcommittee of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group, established in 1976.


















November 2, 2011

10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.

Please join the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe for a hearing that explores the nexus between Transnational Organized Crime and Human Trafficking.

Organized Crime has evolved to meet the challenges of globalization and modern technology. In this evolution major international criminal organizations and smaller highly specialized groups of criminal entrepreneurs have found new ways to expand their operations and exploit human beings into slavery. To meet these challenges new national and international strategies have been placed into action, but their results remain to be seen. This continues the Helsinki Commission’s hearing series on new fronts in human trafficking. This hearing will focus on: (1) the evolving nature of Transnational Organized Crime, (2) the role of major international organized crime groups and smaller organized criminal syndicates in human trafficking, (3) identified trends, and (4) strategies to combat these organizations and prevent the trafficking of human beings.
















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