Archive for the 'OSCE' Category

U.S. Joins 14 Countries in Calling for a Response to LGBTI Atrocities in Chechnya

At a large human rights meeting in Warsaw, Poland, the United States and 14 other governments are trying to hold Russia accountable for atrocities committed against its LGBT citizens in Chechnya.  U.S. Ambassador Michael Kozak explained to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) that: “The United States joined 14 other participating States in invoking the OSCE’s Vienna Mechanism, requiring Russia to provide a serious response to reports of appalling abuses by Chechen authorities against persons for their perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as against human rights defenders, lawyers, and members of independent media and civil society organizations.

Ambassador Kozak is referring to a decision to invoke a rarely-used human rights mechanism that was triggered two weeks ago by 15 OSCE governments (Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States).  The “Vienna Mechanism,” as it’s known at the OSCE, now requires the Russian government to respond within ten days to a specific set of questions on human rights abuses in Chechnya, including, most pointedly, this key question: “How have Russian federal authorities investigated allegations of violations and abuses reportedly committed against actual or perceived LGBTI persons, and how have they arrived at the conclusion (as repeated by Russian authorities) that no such violations or abuses have occurred and that no LGBTI persons exist in Chechnya?

The ten-day deadline just passed without a response from Russia.  The next step in this diplomatic dance is to invoke the OSCE’s “Moscow Mechanism.”  The Moscow Mechanism moves beyond a cordial request for information and empowers independent fact-finding experts to prepare an official report on the atrocities and human rights obligations in Chechnya.  LGBTI and allied human rights advocates are at the Warsaw meeting this week to call on governments to take that next step to invoke the Moscow Mechanism – and to do so sooner rather than later.

The OSCE has its origins in a 1975 agreement that facilitated security negotiations between East and West during the Cold War.  At the end of the Cold War, it was reinvented as an institution that promotes security, democracy and human rights across 57 countries in North America, Europe and Asia, with special attention to the promotion of human rights and democracy in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

More recently, the member governments of the OSCE agreed to address hate crimes as a priority human rights and security challenge across the region, pledging to support effective training, education, legislation, prosecution and data collection to respond to bias-motivated crimes directed at minority communities.  To date, the OSCE’s engagement has focused on responses to hate crimes targeting religious and ethnic minorities, including strong responses to anti-Semitism and discrimination against Muslims and Roma in Europe.

Increasingly, however, the OSCE also has been addressing hate crimes targeting LGBTI citizens.  This is an important development that is moving forward despite the objections of Russia and the Vatican and other OSCE states that cling to anti-LGBTI laws and policies.  By invoking the Moscow Mechanism in this particular case in Chechnya, the OSCE would for the first time empower independent experts to establish, conclusively, whether Russia has violated its human rights commitments as a result of its failure to protect its own LGBTI citizens from torture, arbitrary detention and extrajudicial execution.  Sadly, the world already knows the answer to that question.  But it is important to establish the facts through an official record that could provide the basis for additional actions at the OSCE, the United Nations and in OSCE member countries.  It is also crucial that the OSCE not turn a blind eye to the violence because of the sexual orientation of the victims.

This is primarily and most importantly an effort to respond to impunity for LGBTI hate violence in Russia.  But it also sets an important precedent within the OSCE, as 15 of the organization’s leading members – and leading funders – have taken collective action against LGBTI violence.  Civil society must build on this momentum to insist that the OSCE strengthen its capacity to respond to LGBTI hate crimes in the same way across all OSCE countries.

Dr. Daniel Baer nominated to serve as U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)

Deputy Assistant Secretary Dan Baer, United States State Department

The Council for Global Equality is delighted to note that Dr. Daniel Baer, Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Democracy Human Rights and Labor, has been nominated to serve as U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) based in Vienna. The OSCE is a multilateral organization that has a unique security perspective that recognizes that respect for human rights must be a cornerstone of security in our interconnected world. The OSCE brings countries from Asia, Europe and North America together to discuss shared security commitments, including commitments to safeguarding fundamental rights to freedom of association and expression and to respond to hate violence across the region.

Mark Bromley, Chair of the Council for Global Equality, noted that: “In recent years, the OSCE has provided an important forum to denounce LGBT hate crimes and restrictions on LGBT organizations. As a strong champion of human rights for all, and an openly gay man who has stood firmly for equal treatment for LGBT individuals globally, we are delighted by this appointment and hope the U.S. Senate will act quickly to confirm him. Anti-LGBT measures are sweeping across Eastern Europe, including this week in Russia, and we know that Dan will be uniquely positioned to speak out against these threats to human rights and human security in Europe.”

U.S. Amb. Ian Kelly Statement On LGBT Rights In Russian Federation And Moldova

US Ambassador Ian Kelly, OSCEGeneva, Switzerland
Ambassador Ian Kelly

March 22, 2012

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

We take this moment to subscribe to the joint statement of Canada, Iceland, Switzerland, and Norway delivered at the Permanent Council on March 15, which articulated concerns about the newly adopted legislation in St. Petersburg, Russia, banning “public action aimed at propagandizing sodomy, lesbianism, bisexualism, and transgenderism among minors,” as well as the recent administrative decisions in several Moldovan municipalities which aim to prohibit the promotion of “non-traditional sexual orientations” and to prohibit “homosexual demonstrations.”

We are concerned when institutionally adopted decisions and legislative initiatives purposely attempt to discriminate against certain groups. The St. Petersburg legislation and the Moldovan administrative decisions violate the fundamental freedoms of persons on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. They are at odds with regional and international human rights standards, including the 1990 Copenhagen Document, which lays the foundation for our collective OSCE commitments on nondiscrimination.

For over twenty years, the OSCE has worked determinedly to combat all forms of discrimination, underscoring the vital role that tolerance and understanding play in achieving and preserving stable democratic societies. In 2009, we took an important step forward when we committed to the Athens Ministerial Decision on Combating Hate Crimes, which further developed OSCE principles on tolerance and non-discrimination and created new commitments for participating States on hate crimes. This decision recognized that “manifestations of discrimination and intolerance threaten the security of individuals and societal cohesion.”

We note further that recently, the United Nations Human Rights Council held its first dedicated discussion on the issue of discrimination and violence on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. In a moving speech to the Council on March 7th, UN Secretary-General Ban observed that “discrimination directed at people just because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender . . . is also a violation of international law.” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay also noted that laws that criminalize same-sex relations, or contain vague prohibitions that are applied in a discriminatory way to prosecute lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) people not only breach international human rights law, but also cause unnecessary suffering, reinforce stigma, fuel violence and undermine efforts to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS.

In light of the wide-ranging OSCE commitments described above to which all participating States have agreed, we urge relevant authorities in Russia and Moldova to reverse these actions.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

News from the Council for Global Equality

Read the November 2010 newsletter from the Council for Global Equality.

We’ve been busy this fall promoting a U.S. foreign policy inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity. I hope you’ll read more about our work and join us in promoting global equality today.

  • Council Celebrates Two Years of Advocacy
  • Council Meets with Under Secretary of State Maria Otero
  • US Record on LGBT Rights Reviewed at UN Human Rights Council
  • Council Facilitates Amsterdam Summit of National LGBT Groups
  • Council Raises LGBT Hate Crimes and Discrimination at Human Rights Conference in Warsaw
  • Are Multinational Corporations Caring More About Their LGBT Employees Around the World?

Ambassador Michael Guest Interview at the 2010 OSCE Review Conference Warsaw, Poland (video)

From the U.S. Mission to the OSCE
As the OSCE Review Conference drew to a close, Head of the U.S. Delegation,  Ambassador Michael Guest, talks about the role of the OSCE, the value of such conferences, and the importance of Non-Governmental Organization access.

LGBT participation at the 2010 OSCE Review Conference Warsaw, Poland (video)

Mark Bromley, Council Chair of The Council for Global Equality as well as organizations such as ILGA-Europe, Campaign Against Homophobia-Poland, COC Netherlands and Genderdoc-Moldova are interviewed about sexual orientation and gender identity and how they relate to the The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

Gay diplomat presses LGBT issues at int’l conference

photo: OSCE/Curtis Budden

Washington Blade | Chris Johnson | Oct 21, 2010

A gay diplomat led a U.S. delegation at an international conference earlier this month that touched on the importance of LGBT rights as a human rights issue.

Michael Guest, former U.S. ambassador to Romania, headed a delegation of about 25 U.S. diplomats during the human rights portion of an annual review conference for the Organization for Security & Cooperation in Europe. The review conference took place between Sept. 30 and Oct. 8 in Warsaw, Poland.

The Warsaw Review Conference was a primer engagement for trans-Atlantic countries to discuss human rights principles — including hate crimes against LGBT people and the freedom to association to have Pride celebrations across the globe — in anticipation of a later OSCE summit that this year is set to take place in December in Astana, Kazakhstan.

In an interview with the Washington Blade, Guest said that his sexual orientation made his designation as head of the delegation representational of the Obama administration’s stated principle that international LGBT rights are human rights.

“I also think that it made an impact with other delegations,” Guest added. “It was clearly a prominent feature of my biography, so there were a number of delegation members that come and it’s representative in their eyes as a sense of progress that an openly gay man would be appointed.”

Still, Guest said he thinks his 26-year service as a diplomat was the primary reason he was selected for the position and noted that during much of his career he focused on OSCE policy.

“I dealt with it at the time when all these changes were happening in Europe in 1989, 1990 and 1991 and when most of the commitments on fundamental freedoms and human rights were signed by the newly independent countries of the former Soviet Union and the new democracies of Central and Eastern Europe,” he said.

Guest attained notoriety in 2007 when he retired from the State Department in protest because it didn’t offer certain benefits — such as security training and free medical care — to the same-sex partners of Foreign Service officers. The situation has since been rectified by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Mark Bromley, chair of the Council for Global Equality, which took part in the review conference as an non-governmental organization, said the selection of an out gay man to lead the U.S. delegation was significant because previous administrations have been reluctant to incorporate LGBT issues in foreign policy.

“The United States in the past has been reluctant to address LGBT concerns within this forum,” Bromley said. “I think the fact that they selected Michael Guest as someone who is openly gay and works with organizations that promote issues on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity was an important statement.” continue reading story


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