WASHINGTON -- Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin has been named co-chairman of the Helsinki Commission, his office announced yesterday.
An independent agency of the U.S. government, the commission helps to develop U.S. policy for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The OSCE, which consists of the United States and 55 other countries in North America, Europe and Asia, focuses on security, economic and environmental cooperation, human rights and humanitarian concerns.
"I believe that everyone - both in America and around the world - deserves to live with dignity, free of oppression and discrimination," Cardin said in a statement. "Unfortunately, too many people still live under a dark cloud of abuse, torture and intimidation. We need to give these ethnic and religious minorities a voice and draw the world's attention to their plight."
Formally called the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Helsinki Commission consists of nine senators, nine House members and one representative each for the departments of State, Defense and Commerce. As a House member, Cardin has served on the commission since 1993.
"Senator Cardin ... possesses the keen understanding necessary to lead U.S. efforts to advance these important military, economic, environmental, and humanitarian issues," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who appointed Cardin co-chairman, said in a statement. "I look forward to the progress he will continue to make in the future."
Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, a Florida Democrat, is chairman.