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July 22, 2014

Congress Should Examine Ways United States and OSCE Can Combat European Antisemitism

Washington, D.C. – Today, as the Helsinki Commission holds a hearing on “Anti-Semitism, Racism and Discrimination in the OSCE Region,” Human Rights First urges lawmakers to examine ways in which the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) can work to combat the rise of antisemitic, extremist political parties in Hungary and Greece. The hearing comes just days before Human Rights First releases its new report titled “We’re not Nazis, but…The Rise of Hate Parties in Hungary and Greece and Why America Should Care.” The report, based on research conducted in Hungary and Greece during this year’s elections, in which extreme far-right parties gained ground in those two countries and elected members from across Europe to the European Parliament, includes recommendations for how the OSCE and United States can work together to combat antisemitism, hate crime, and extremism.

“May’s European Parliament election should be a wake-up call to the United States,” said Human Rights First’s Tad Stahnke. “The strength of the transatlantic alliance is more important than ever to the United States, especially with Russia flexing its muscles on the borders of Europe. Meanwhile, the European Union is being weakened from within by a number of far-right parties who espouse anstisemitic and racist rhetoric, some of whose supporters commit acts of violence. Congress should take up the growth of political extremism in Europe at this critical time.”

The OSCE participating countries, including Hungary and Greece, have committed to measures to address antisemitism, intolerance, and discrimination. Human Rights First’s report includes recommendations for the United States, Hungary, Greece, and the OSCE to combat the spread of antisemitism and hate crime. The report’s recommendations include:

  • The U.S. government should publicly call on all governments to combat antisemitism. The Obama Administration should send Vice President Biden to represent the United States at the 10th anniversary of the OSCE’s Berlin Conference on Anti-Semitism this fall. Congress should send a bipartisan, high-level delegation to the conference, and encourage parliamentarians and senior leaders from Hungary and Greece to attend.
  • The U.S. State Department should urge the governments of Hungary and Greece to invite the European Union, Council of Europe, and OSCE to share expertise on improving the prevention, investigation, and prosecution of hate crimes. The Department of Justice should offer bilateral assistance to the governments in hate crime data collection, police investigations and prosecutions, as well as assistance to nongovernmental organizations working in the area.
  • The governments of Greece and Hungary should request assistance from or cooperate with the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODHIR) in its efforts to develop better systems of data collection of hate crime statistics.

Human Rights First also calls on the United States and other OSCE governments to press for access for OSCE and other international monitors in Crimea, where there have been reports of persecution of Crimean Tartas as well as human rights defenders and independent journalists.

This week’s hearing comes as a recent wave of violence targeting Jews and Jewish institutions has occurred in several European countries in apparent response to recent events in Israel and Gaza.  Human Rights First condemns these attacks, noting that international events are never a justification for violence targeting individuals or property on account of race, ethnicity, religion, or other similar factors.   The organization urges European governments to protect the right of peaceful assembly, speak out against any acts of bias-motivated violence targeting Jewish and other communities, conduct thorough investigations, and hold the perpetrators accountable. 

“The United States, working within the OSCE, must directly address the human rights and rule of law challenges in Greece and Hungary as an integral part of its strategy to strengthen the transatlantic alliance,” said Stahnke. “The United States needs a strategy to tend to its historic base: its old friends and democratic allies in Europe.”

For more information on May’s parliamentary elections, see Human Rights First’s fact sheet. To speak with Stahnke contact Corinne Duffy at DuffyC@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3319