Remarks by Head of the Russian delegation Anatoly Viktorov, Director of the Foreign Ministry Department for Humanitarian Cooperation and Human Rights and Foreign Ministry Commissioner for Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law, at the opening session of the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM), Warsaw, September 11, 2017
This year we have seen major personnel reshuffles in the top echelons of the OSCE executive agencies, thanks to the agreements we reached at Mauerbach. I would like to again congratulate Ms Ingibjorg Solrun Gisladottir on her appointment as the Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and to wish her success in her new capacity. Our congratulations also go to Mr Thomas Greminger on his appointment as the OSCE Secretary General, to Mr Harlem Desir, who has been appointed as the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, and to Mr Lamberto Zannier, the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities. We hope that while working within the framework of their mandates they will search for a reasonable compromise so as to be able to maintain the geographical balance in their agencies’ operation.
We are convinced that we should start with revising some OSCE institutions’ approach to the events in Ukraine, as we pointed out at our previous meeting. It is absolutely unacceptable that the OSCE refrains from making an objective analysis of the situation in Ukraine, where an internal armed conflict has been raging for several years. This conflict was launched by the forces that had seized power in Kiev in a military coup that was sponsored and supported by the leadership of several OSCE countries. These same countries have claimed the right to teach us respect for human rights. The OSCE and its concerned agencies seldom provide appropriate assessments of the numerous infringements on human rights and freedoms, which have been committed by the Kiev government, including infringements on the right to life, freedom of speech, conscience, religion and convictions, as well as language and other minority rights. We are gravely concerned about the situation with media freedom in Ukraine. We must not turn a blind eye to the numerous violations of Kiev’s international commitments to eliminate all forms of racism and racial discrimination. Nationalist, racist and neo-Nazi ideas and ideology are spreading throughout Ukraine unchallenged.
There are serious complaints against the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), which focused on several countries “east of Vienna” instead of comprehensively assessing the situation in Ukraine as well as throughout the OSCE area as a whole.
This imbalance stuck out like a sore thumb against the backdrop of the electoral monitoring campaign, which has pointed to the increasing number of questions to the standards of the ODIHR activities. We monitored the elections as part of international observer missions, including the ODIHR ones, and have come to the conclusion that the operations carried out by the Office must be adjusted to modern realities and that the methods of election monitoring should be coordinated with the OSCE member states. Otherwise we will be unable to maintain the necessary level of trust for the ODIHR or ensure compliance with the principles of professionalism and objectivity in its work. We hope that the new ODIHR leadership will make every effort so as to be able to find solutions to these problems.
We pointed out more than once over the past years that the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities neglected to take a serious look at the situation of the Russian minorities both in Latvia and Estonia or at the humiliating and downright disgraceful status of non-citizens, which is a shameful element of life in modern Europe. We hope that the new High Commissioner will give the necessary attention to these matters.
Regarding the numerous statements on the “independence” and “autonomous nature” of the OSCE’s executive agencies that have been made in some countries, we have to say that these allegations are completely groundless. These agencies must operate in strict compliance with the decisions of the OSCE’s collective agencies and the approved mandates. Neither the budget-financed nor the extra-budgetary projects can exceed the limits of the OSCE obligations, consensus decisions or mandates. We consider it crucial to increase the transparency in the work of these agencies and their accountability to the member states.
There are still distortions in the approaches of some OSCE states to humanitarian issues. Double standards, mentoring and, the phenomenon of the past few years – attempts to railroad into the OSCE agenda dubious items with the express purpose of inciting anti-Russian sentiment, do not promote dialogue on issues that are important for all of us.
This is being done despite the accumulation of many problems to the west of Vienna. This primarily applies to the migration issues in Europe, which were triggered by the interference of some Western powers in the domestic affairs of some countries in the Middle East and North Africa with a view to their destabilization and removal of objectionable regimes. A bad situation is made worse by the EU’s lack of a clear-cut common policy and substantial differences in the positions of its members on migration issues, which vary from radically liberal to excessively tough.
Regrettably, there are many examples of abusive treatment or even violence directed toward migrants and refugees. This contributes to the aggravation of migration issues and growing demand for “the services” of human trafficking networks, whose number is on the rise. Our Western colleagues are virtually ignoring the extremist and terrorist threats posed by the sharp increase in migration to Europe, which is a source of special concern.
Freedom of expression and the media has turned into an instrument of unscrupulous political manipulation. The accuracy of information is no longer important. The United States and EU countries are trying to separate the international information space into two camps – the proper (their own) media and propaganda mouthpieces that reflect alternative views on global events, especially as regards Russia and its interests. Steamrolled by Washington and Brussels, ostensibly “independent” publications, TV and radio channels are following the pattern of overt double standards. As a result, journalists are the hardest hit – they are threatened, extradited, tortured and even killed for dissent. They are labelled propagandists and liars while objectionable media unwelcome in the West are subjected to defamation and growing pressure by the authorities.
We hope the new OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media will deal with these issues, guided by an unbiased assessment of the situation in OSCE states.
Russia has repeatedly emphasised the need to pay close attention to growing manifestations of aggressive nationalism and neo-Nazism in OSCE states. We have received no response to our appeals to give a principled assessment to Neo-Nazi manifestations and marches, “the war” against monuments to the liberators of Europe, historical revision of WWII and glorification of Waffen-SS veterans and their accomplices. Moreover, our Western colleagues are cynically justifying such actions by citing freedom of expression and the right to “one’s own interpretation of historical events.”
Driven by their desire to belittle the Soviet Union’s decisive role in the victory in WWII, the United States, Canada and the EU are shutting their eyes to these appalling facts and are flirting with true radicals. It is enough to recall the recent clip on the NATO website glorifying the Latvian “forest brothers.” One of the most graphic manifestations of this was a campaign to glorify Nazi accomplices in Ukraine, information on which is largely being hushed up in the West. Only the tragic events in Charlottesville last August stirred the emotions of the world public and demonstrated that it is extremely dangerous to indulge radical views. We hope our colleagues will draw the proper conclusions at long last.
We are concerned about the situation of Christians and Muslims in the OSCE countries and neighbouring regions. Christians are facing huge challenges. They are subjected to discriminatory laws. Believers and the clergy have been attacked, persecuted and even killed. The Western media suppress their problems. Many Christian shrines have been violated and destroyed. There is also increasing intolerance of Muslims and growing anti-Muslim sentiment and rhetoric, including from officials, as well as violence, vandalised mosques and religious symbols and incitement of hatred in the social media. At the same time, the decision adopted at the OSCE Ministerial Meeting in Basel in 2014 to adopt two ministerial declarations on countering intolerance against Christians and Muslims has not been implemented. We are perplexed by the position of those countries that have blocked work on these vital documents under far-fetched pretexts.
Regarding the idea of adopting a working definition of anti-Semitism, Russia is willing to contribute to this process, provided it is based on broad consensus and involves all the concerned parties. We are also ready to consider the possibility of adopting similar definitions of intolerance against Christians and Muslims.
The OSCE must definitely pay more attention to the rights of children. Regrettably, the current problems include growing violence against and sexual abuse of children, trafficking of children, including online, child labour and juvenile delinquency. Another issue of major concern is the introduction of obligatory sex education in some countries, which often has a negative effect on the children’s mental development and runs contrary to the cultural and religious beliefs of their parents.
Neither should we overlook the abusive practices of governmental and para-governmental organisations that have the right to forcibly take children away from their parents based on anonymous reports. Juvenile justice must not tolerate the grossly arbitrary behaviour of some institutions that endangers not just the mental health of children but also their future.
We cannot accept certain upbringing methods that have been approved in some European countries, such as freedom from gender identity, the abolition of gender as a category and other outrageous experiments that are designed to erode children’s self-identification. We hope to be able to hold a substantive discussion of the entire range of child protection issues at the upcoming seminar in Warsaw on October 11-12.
Regarding gender equality, we believe that the 2004 OSCE Action Plan for the Promotion of Gender Equality and related decisions cover a major part of the questions in this sphere and that there is no dire need to expand it. The draft amendments to the Action Plan, which have not been adopted so far, should be updated. In particular, the notion of “gender equality” should be defined as “equality between men and women”, and more attention must be given to the economic, social and cultural aspects of women’s rights. We must comply with the principle of equal attention to all categories of rights.
We have pointed out on many occasions that the excessive attention given in the United States and the EU to the external elements of democracy is a means of manipulating public opinion and pressuring sovereign states. The instruments that have been used most actively of late are the enforcement of neoliberal values and complete disregard for the cultural and historical traditions of other societies. The enforcement of one’s values as the only true values will not promote constructive dialogue and understanding among nations.
In order to achieve positive results in the Third Basket and at the OSCE Ministerial Meeting in Vienna, all of us must abandon double standards and opportunistic approaches and resume constructive and equitable dialogue and cooperation.