The U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, heard testimony in Washington Wednesday that the United States and Europe are working more closely than ever on the global fight against terrorism.
Portugal's Foreign Minister, Antonio Martins da Cruz, who holds the rotating chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, told the Commission the OSCE has specific goals to fight terrorism. "Four strategic areas have been identified: policing, border control, trafficking and money laundering," he said.
Mr. Martins da Cruz, told the Commission that multinational cooperation against terrorism, especially its financing, will be a major focus of an international meeting scheduled for Lisbon on June 12.
Spanish ambassador Javier Ruperez testified that the European Union stands firmly with the people of the United States in the common struggle against terrorism. Ambassador Ruperez noted that close cooperation between the United States and E.U. members has resulted in a number of terrorism-related arrests in Europe.
U.S. State Department counter-terrorism expert Mark Wong told the hearing that the United States is strongly encouraging other countries to toughen their terrorism-related laws and regulations. Mr. Wong thanked European and Central Asian nations for their support in the fight against Al-Qaida terrorists and the Taleban in Afghanistan.
U.S. Treasury Department Undersecretary Jimmy Gurule' testified that Commission that 210 persons and groups have so far been identified as financers of terrorism. He said that more than $34-million in terrorist-connected assets have been frozen by the United States, with an additional $81-million in assets blocked by coalition partners.
Along with a series of success stories in the fight against terrorism came words of caution to the commission from U.S. Congressman Joseph Pitts. He told the hearing that as the issue of terrorism is addressed, it is very important that human rights issues not be ignored.
"Sadly, the manner in which some governments have chosen to deal with extremist elements has been to throw a net out that captures not only terrorist elements, but innocent people as well," he said. "he mistreatment and subsequent anger of the innocent people reportedly has actually driven people into the arms of the extremists."
Congressman Pitts also said that in the war against terror, religious freedoms have been infringed upon in some countries. He also cautioned governments not to use the fight against terrorism to crush legitimate political opposition.