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06-18-02 Letter to Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell and Representative Christopher H. Smith

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      June 18, 2002

The Honorable Ben Nighthorse Campbell 
U.S. Senate 
380 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Christopher H. Smith
U.S. House of Representatives
2373 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

RE: Helsinki Commission Hearing on Greece

Dear Chris and Senator Campbell:

I write to express deep concern over the June 20, 2002 hearing of the Helsinki Commission entitled "Human Rights in Greece: A Snapshot of the Cradle of Democracy." Although the Commission has scrutinized the conduct of other Helsinki members in hearings, this is the first instance of a democratic country from Western Europe being the target of such a hearing. As such, I am curious why Greece has been singled out from other U.S. allies in Western Europe.

The recent State Department Trafficking in Persons Report puts Greece in the unenviable 3rd Tier of nations, a category which encompass those countries that have not taken any substantial steps toward combating the problem of human trafficking. That report neglected to mention, and I urge you to consider, the fact that the Greek Parliament is currently in the process of voting for a law that seeks to end human trafficking within Greece.

In light of these pending changes in Greece, I find it troubling that the U.S. Congress would choose to unduly criticize Greece rather than encouraging it. Greece is a pivotal nation for U.S. interests in Southeast Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean. Indeed following the Kosovo War, Greece emerged as the key player in the Balkans and the most important US partner in the wider region. In light of these facts, we feel that this Commission¹s hearing unjustly reprimands an ally and a friend.

According to your press release, the hearing will also address reports that media freedom is poor in Greece. The facts, however, say otherwise, to which I can personally attest. Freedom House recently placed Greece and the United States in the exact same category of press freedom, the 16-30 scale. Both nations were joined in this category by other freedom-loving nations such as Austria, Italy and France. No one will deny that these nations, including Greece, have shortcomings in their democracies, but would you argue that they should all be subject to a Congressional hearing?

I thank you for your consideration of this matter.




Nick Larigakis
Executive Director
American Hellenic Institute