Mr. Rhodes, Russia has alleged that the OSCE has double standards in monitoring elections. Why would somebody say that the OSCE needs clear rules for election monitoring after so many years of operations?
Aaron Rhodes: I would be careful to assign any motives for these statements, but the fact is that they do have clear rules. What's rather frustrating about these charges against the election monitoring system of the OSCE is that they never present a shred of evidence or cite any concrete examples of where or how any double standards have been applied. These charges [against the OSCE] aren't very credible, because they are never associated with any evidence whatsoever. So one gets the impression that, maybe, the reason that the charges are made is that they don't like the results -- so they attack the process.
RFE/RL: Let's speak about the rules a little bit. You said that there are clear rules, but speaking in Ljubljana, Russian Foreign Minister [Sergei] Lavrov actually cited two examples of the kind of double standards, and I quote, "The organization's lack of clear rules led it to declare that fraud occurred at several polls, including those in Georgia and Ukraine." So what are the rules?
Rhodes: I would not consider myself an authoritative spokesman for what these rules are. I think you should ask the head of the ODIHR office, the [OSCE's] Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, Ambassador [[Christian] Strohal, to comment on these rules. I personally know that, for example, the individuals that undertake these election-monitoring operations are from all over the OSCE. They're from post-Soviet countries, Eastern European countries, from Europe, from Western Europe, from the Balkans, from North America. I find it hard to believe that the individuals charged with overseeing this process have some sort of political agenda, as they are professionals.
RFE/RL: This dispute resulted in the fact that there was no document adopted in Ljubljana. Some diplomats in Ljubljana were afraid, because it is the third time that the OSCE comes without any final documents, so they feel that the OSCE -- the top European human rights body -- is under threat of being ineffective. Do you have this feeling?
Rhodes: I'm not so sure if it makes any difference if there's a document or not. At the same time, I think that the lack of consensus in the OSCE about the usefulness of these objectives -- human rights monitoring and election monitoring processes -- is a serious problem. It's a challenge to convince all the members of the OSCE that this [election monitoring] is something good for people in the region, this is something good for the citizens, and this is something good for the stability of regimes in the region, who would submit themselves to this kind of scrutiny and therefore gain credibility. Regimes that are put in place by fraudulent elections are not stable regimes.
RFE/RL: But it really looks as if bodies like the Council of Europe, for example, and even now the European Union, are trying to be more active in establishing human rights standards and democratic standards that roused the OSCE recently.
Rhodes: But at the same time those organizations are operating on different principles. Also, I might add that in the Council of Europe they have some of the same problems.... The Council of Europe, as containing as it does Russia, and a number of other post-Soviet states – they also are blocked from doing anything about serious problems like Chechnya. A lot of the same paradoxes apply.
RFE/RL: Is it because Russia is blocking both organizations from being effective?
The INTERNATIONAL HELSINKI FOUNDATION FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
(IHF) is an international, nongovernmental organization constituted by national Helsinki committees and cooperating organizations in the participating states of the OSCE. It seeks to promote compliance with the human-rights provisions of the Helsinki Final Act and its follow-up documents, with international legal obligations undertaken in the Council of Europe and the United Nations, and with human rights norms promoted by the European Union. (Source: www.ihf-hr.org)
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