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Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I would like to welcome you, Ambassador Stoudmann, to the Permanent Council.
I want to begin by commenting on the important issues you raised regarding protecting human rights in our war against terrorism. I am proud to say that the United States has already responded in December, as Ambassador Stoudmann noted, in accordance with our obligations under the Moscow Document of 1991, to the request that ODIHR be notified when a state of public emergency is declared.
The United States has focused its political, economic, military and intellectual resources on all aspects of the fight against terrorism. We are cognizant of our responsibilities as an OSCE Member to respond to the questions posed to us.
We believe our actions and our plans are consistent with the United States Government's commitment to respect and safeguard international law. The United States appreciates the opportunity to address these issues with its partners, and we will keep the Permanent Council informed as this issue unfolds. At the same time, we must ask the OSCE and our fellow participating States for patience.
There are a number of statements and opinions being raised in the public on the issues that you, Ambassador Stoudmann, have raised. We assure you that, as additional facts on these issues become known, including the status of military vis-a-vis civilian tribunals and the legal issues regarding the Algerian detainees transferred to the United States, and when we have responses to the specific questions that are being raised, we shall share that information with you.
In specific regard to the detentions at Guantanamo Bay, I can inform you that the legal status of the detainees is currently being reviewed within the Administration.
Whatever the legal status of the detainees, the individuals being detained at Guantanamo are being treated humanely and consistently with the principles of the Geneva Conventions.
It is, of course, also the case that these detainees are very dangerous individuals so that all appropriate security precautions need to be taken. We are continuing to investigate the connection between the detainees and Al Qaeda, and are collecting all relevant information concerning crimes that may have been committed.
The International Committee for the Red Cross is being given access to the detainees at Guantanamo to inspect the conditions there.
The fight against terrorism is of course of prime concern in the follow-up to the Bucharest Ministerial. Your office can help States ensure that fundamental freedoms, the rule of law, and other democratic principals such as free and fair elections, are promoted. This is critical to mitigating the conditions that terrorist organizations are able to exploit to recruit and win support. We, therefore, are pleased that your office has already submitted its Road Map for Implementing the Bucharest Terrorism Plan of Action.
We have especially taken note of your suggestion in the Road Map to hold a regional OSCE Conference on Religion and Religious Freedom, which also addresses our Bucharest Ministerial decision to promote tolerance and counter discrimination.
We are concerned that harassment of persons on the grounds of racial or ethnic origin, religious, political or other opinion, or for the simple fact that they protect the human rights of others, has already begun to surface this year.
In the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia there have been allegations that high-level governmental officials may have been involved in or supported intimidation campaigns against the Helsinki Committee branch. We are specifically concerned at recent attacks in various media outlets against the Helsinki Committee. These attacks have included a series of unfounded allegations. Politically motivated campaigns attacking human rights defenders, limiting their freedom of speech and assembly, have no part to play in a democratic state.
In the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition members have participated in a recent wave of intimidation against the Helsinki Committee. We note favorably, however, Foreign Minister Svilanovic's January 15 call for an end to hate speech and for reconciliation among all members of Yugoslav society.
Likewise, we encourage you to continue your work in Estonia and Latvia. The Bucharest Ministerial also laid out a very comprehensive list of other topics for participating States and your Office to address this year, including reviewing the modalities for the human dimension meetings.
The United States looks forward to working with you, the CiO [Chairman-in-Office], and other participating States on this and on developing topics for this year's Supplementary Human Dimension Meetings. We are pleased that the topic of Judicial Systems and Human Rights will be adopted today as this year's ODIHR Seminar, and we will work with you on sub-topics that would sharpen the focus of this seminar.
Mr. Chairman, in closing, I want to thank Ambassador Stoudmann and the entire ODIHR staff for their dedication to their work. As the Charter on European Security notes, human rights represent the core element of a comprehensive approach to security. All of our countries have pledged to implement OSCE human dimension commitments. You have the assurance of the United States that we have not and will not abandon our commitment to human rights and that we will fulfill our obligations and support your work towards that end.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
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