Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)

The “Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) forms the largest regional security organization in the world […] [w]ith 56 participating States from Europe, Central Asia and North America” (OSCE Website,, accessed on 10 June 2008). It acts as an “instrument for early warning, conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation” (OSCE Website,, accessed on 10 June 2008).

“The OSCE views security as comprehensive and takes action in three ‘dimensions’: the politico-military; the economic and environmental; and the human.” (OSCE: Factsheet: What is OSCE?, 10 January 2008,, accessed on 6 June 2008) The ‘human dimension’ envisages full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, the rule of law,  principles of democracy and tolerance (see OSCE Website,, accessed on 10 June 2008).

Several OSCE specialised bodies work within the framework of the human dimension: “The […] Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) and the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media (RFOM) (OSCE: OSCE Handbook, 11 October 2007, p. 91,, accessed on 10 June 2008).

The OSCE Secretariat is located in Vienna. OSCE currently maintains “19 missions or field operations in South-Eastern Europe, Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia” (OSCE Website,, accessed on 10 June 2008).

Target group:
OSCE participating states, international and national human rights organisations; actors involved in conflict; civil society, local and international media (see Austrian Red Cross/ ACCOR: Researching Country of Origin Information. A Training Manual, Annex, April 2004, p. 20,, accessed on 15 May 2008).

OSCE seeks to pursue its goals by “[g]athering […] information and monitoring developments for early warning of potential conflict situations” (Austrian Red Cross/ ACCORD: Researching Country of Origin Information. A Training Manual, Annex, April 2004, p.  20,, accessed on 10 June 2008).

OSCE monitors and reports, and provides analysis on elections, court trials, and legal and criminal justice systems and “encourages political, social and media reforms” (BBC News: Profile: The OSCE, 30 January 2008,, accessed on 10 June 2008).

Annual contributions from OSCE participating states and extra-budgetary funds which are normally on a multi-year-basis (OSCE: 2006 Audited Financial Statements, OSCE, p. 1-2 and 4;, accessed on 9 June 2008).

Scope of reporting:
Geographic focus: 56 OSCE participating states.

Thematic focus: Issues covered in OSCE reports which are of relevance to COI research are anti-trafficking, democratisation, elections, gender equality, human rights, media freedom, minority rights, rule of law, tolerance and non-discrimination (OSCE Website,, accessed on 10 June 2008).

Reporting methodology:
“Missions, or field activities, are the OSCE’s principal instrument for longterm conflict prevention and resolution” (Austrian Red Cross/ ACCORD: Researching Country of Origin Information. A Training Manual, Annex, April 2004,  p.  20,, accessed on 10 June 2008).

OSCE missions/ODIHR may conduct fact-finding investigations based on complaints about “a specific human rights violation against an individual or a group of individuals”, which may come from victims or their families, “[o]ther individuals […] such as community leaders, political activists, human rights defenders, defence lawyers, or members of minority or religious groups, […] human rights organizations or other NGOs, […] international organizations, […] media, […] or [a]nother OSCE body”. (OSCE: Individual Human Rights Complaints. A Handbook for OSCE field personnel, p. 35,, accessed on 16 June 2008).

Investigations aim “to assess the validity of claims […] and to establish the facts of exactly what happened or is happening, to prepare a report that contains a conclusion and, where appropriate, recommendations for action by the OSCE and/or by the host government” (ibid, p. 67). Investigation on a case may be decided based on its urgency, whether it “is part of a pattern of violations of human rights”, and whether or not “OSCE involvement seems likely to contribute positively to a satisfactory resolution of the complaint”, and the credibility of the complaint (ibid, p. 36-38). OSCE investigations may take place at “the scene of an alleged human rights violation, […] in detention centres”, or in the form of “trial monitoring” (ibid, p. 71).
OSCE seeks to gather information through “statements by victims, witnesses, and others who may be connected to the case, e.g., a doctor who examined the victim, legal experts, or law enforcement personnel”. This includes interviews which OSCE seeks to conduct in “private and confidential […] setting”, and “on a one-to-one basis (unless the interviewee requests the presence of another person)”. If necessary, interpreters are used. Evidence may further “include physical items (such as photographs, videotapes, or weapons)” (ibid, p. 67). As a means of corroborating information, OSCE states that “it is customary […] to approach the authorities to inquire whether they can provide clarification or corroboration with regard to the allegation”, except in cases where such an inquiry “would further endanger a victim or community” (ibid, p. 68). The reports may include recommendations addressing the host government.
A major field of OSCE/ODIHR’s activities are election observation missions, which aim to “take […] account of the situation before, during, and after an election.” They focus on “the legal framework, […] including the performance of the election administration; the conduct of the campaign; the media environment and equitable media access; the complaints and appeals process; voting, counting, and tabulation; and the announcement of results.” Recent methodological adaptations include a stronger focus on “the participation of women and the inclusion of national minorities in the electoral process”. (Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights: Annual Report 2007,, accessed on 10 June 2008).
Election observation teams usually consist of some 10-12 international experts (depending on the size of the mission and the specific circumstances of the election), which normally include a “head of mission, a deputy head of mission, an election analyst, a political analyst, a legal analyst, a media analyst [and] a statistical analyst” (OSCE: Election Observation Handbook,, accessed on 16 June 2008).
OSCE/ODIHR observers are supported by national staff (interpreters etc). The election observation mission normally releases a statement of preliminary findings and conclusions on the day after the election. The final report includes legislative and policy recommendations for the OSCE participating state in question (see ibid, p. 66-67).

Publication cycle:
The Monthly Reports of the Legal System Monitoring Section (concerning Kosovo) are issued at the end of the respective month/at the beginning of the following month. Other reports are issued in irregular intervals.

Reports are published in English and sometimes in local languages.

Additional references:
Austrian Red Cross/ACCORD: Researching Country of Origin Information. A Training Manual, Annex, April 2004 (accessed on 10 June 2008)
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