Senate, House appoint Helsinki commissioners
WASHINGTON - The United States Congress has filled its mandated slate of members to the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, commonly called the Helsinki Commission as origin stems from the agreement to the 1975 Helsinki Final Act.
The Senate Republican leadership has appointed Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.) as Chairman of the Commission for the 107th Congress, a position that rotates between the House and Senate with each new Congress. House of Representatives Republican leaders appointed Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.) as co-chairman of the Commission. The appointment comes after Rep. Smith completed a two-year term as chairman in the 106th Congress.
Chairman Campbell, the only Native American in the U.S. Senate, acknowledged the appointment as commission chairman as an opportunity to encourage stability throughout Europe's emerging democracies.
"Combating corruption and protecting the rights of minorities will certainly be on my list of priorities as chairman of the Helsinki Commission," Sen. Campbell said.
"I look forward to building upon the commission's tradition of bipartisan cooperation in speaking out on behalf of individuals being denied their fundamental freedoms and basic human rights," said Sen. Campbell. Instrumental in raising the growing problem of corruption and international crime within the framework of the 55-state Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Sen. Campbell said he plans to build upon this initiative during his chairmanship.
Co-Chairman Smith expressed gratitude for the opportunity to continue his leadership in monitoring human rights developments among OSCE countries.
"I am grateful that the House leadership has entrusted me with the task of leading the Helsinki Commission in its efforts to improve human rights throughout Europe," Rep. Smith said. "When we see abuses like the car-bomb murder of Rosemary Nelson, a Northern Ireland human rights attorney and advocate, it is humbling to discover the price people pay for the sake of human dignity."
The Helsinki Commission, created by Congress in 1976, consists of nine members from the U.S. Senate, nine members from the U.S. House of Representatives, and one member each from the departments of State, Defense and Commerce. The executive branch commissioners are expected to be appointed in the near future.
In addition to the commission chairman Senate appointment include: Kay Bailey Hutchison, Texas; Sam Brownback, Kansas; Gordon H. Smith, Oregon; George V. Voinovich, Ohio; Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut; Bob Graham, Florida; Russell D. Feingold, Wisconsin; and Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York.
House of Representatives appointments, in addition to the co-chairman, include: Frank R. Wolf, Virginia; Joseph R. Pitts, Pennsylvania; Zach Wamp, Tennessee; Robert B. Aderholt, Alabama; Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland; Benjamin L. Cardin, Maryland; Louise McIntosh Slaughter, New York; and Alcee L. Hastings, Florida.
The commission convenes public hearings and briefings with expert witnesses on OSCE-related issues; issues public reports concerning implementation of OSCE commitments in participating states; publishes periodic CSCE Digest articles with up-to-date information on OSCE developments and commission activities; and organizes official delegations to participating states and OSCE meetings to address and assess democratic, economic and human rights developments firsthand.
The commission contributes to the formulation of U.S. policy on the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and takes part in its execution, including through member and staff participation on U.S. delegations to OSCE meetings and in certain OSCE bodies. Members of the commission have regular contact with parliamentarians, government officials, non-governmental organizations, and private individuals from other OSCE participating states.
The U.S. Helsinki Commission provides extensive information on its work through the Internet at www.csce.gov.
Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, May 20, 2001, No. 20, Vol. LXIX
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