February 12, 2015

Rep. Chris Smith, Sen. Roger Wicker tapped to lead Helsinki Commission


WASHINGTON – Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) has been appointed by Speaker of the House John Boehner as chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, during the 114th Congress. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) has been appointed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to co-chair the commission.
“Today, the principles enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act are under attack. The Russian government is blatantly violating the territorial integrity of Ukraine,” said Chairman Smith. “More than 20 million people are trafficked each year for sexual or other forms of exploitation. Journalists in the OSCE region are being imprisoned, tortured, and even murdered for exposing corruption or publishing controversial pieces. In Europe, violent anti-Semitism is again rearing its ugly head, and in some OSCE countries religious people face restrictions and even persecution merely for practicing their faith.”
“The United States must advocate much more vigorously for those who are victims and are voiceless. As the chair of the bipartisan, bicameral Helsinki Commission, I look forward to working with my fellow commissioners to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms and to safeguard the principles shared by the 57 participating states of the OSCE,” said Chairman Smith, who has been an active member of the Helsinki Commission since 1983.
“I am pleased to join Chairman Smith and the other members of the Helsinki Commission in defending democratic values and the rule of law,” said Co-Chairman Wicker. “Peace and security are under threat in the wake of escalating Russian aggression – impacting our economic and strategic interests in the region. This situation calls for a unified response from the United States and our OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] partner countries. We should work together to ensure a safe, free, and prosperous Europe for this generation and those that follow.”
Chairman Smith has previously chaired the commission and serves as a member of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (PA), which facilitates inter-parliamentary dialogue among the 57 participating states. He is also the OSCE PA’s special representative on human trafficking issues. Sen. Wicker also serves as a member of the OSCE PA, where he chairs the Committee on Political Affairs and Security.