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OSCE: Conference To Focus On Terrorism, Human Rights In Central Asia

Munich, 9 September 2002 (RFE/RL) -- A 10-day conference on human rights and democracy begins today in Warsaw. Organized by the human rights division of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the conference will focus on the problems of introducing OSCE standards of democracy and human rights in Central Asia. Other issues include trafficking in women in Europe and the development of unified standards for democratic elections in postcommunist countries.

Conference spokesman Jens-Hagen Eschenbaecher told RFE/RL that one of the major issues of the conference will be the fight against terrorism and its international repercussions on the human rights situation in many of the 55 member countries of the OSCE, although no special session on terrorism is planned. "There is no specific session on terrorism, but we expect this to be one of the major issues. And not only, of course, as regards the Western countries' response [to it], but also Central Asian countries. For example, using the fight against terrorism as a pretext to clamp down on human rights in their countries," Eschenbaecher said.

Eschenbaecher said the war against terrorism will be the main theme of the opening address by former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari.

The OSCE has also asked U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell to make an adviser available to answer questions about the war on terrorism through a television link tomorrow.

Among those expected to speak at a special session on trafficking in human beings on 17 September is Kathryn Bolkovac, a former human rights investigator for the United Nations International Police Task Force in Bosnia. She left the force in April last year after publicly accusing the international police force of complicity in trafficking.

The conference spokesman said the OSCE will offer the conference a draft document on a set of standards for democratic elections in Central Asia and other postcommunist countries. He said the OSCE draft document is not being offered as a formal proposal to be followed by all OSCE countries but simply as a basis for discussions.

The Vienna-based International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights says it will submit a series of statements to the conference documenting violations of OSCE standards in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Georgia, Ukraine, Turkey, and other countries.

More than 500 international experts and government representatives are expected to attend the conference. The spokesman said the conference recommendations will not be binding on any government but should be seen as guidelines for maintaining OSCE standards of democracy.