House Passes Bill Promoting Human Rights in Belarus

Iryna Bogdanova holding poster with photos of her brother jailed presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov and his wife

From the House Foreign Affairs Committee:  Support for people struggling to obtain basic human rights in Belarus—often called Europe’s last dictatorship—came today in the form of the House of Representatives passage of the Belarus Democracy and Human Rights Act of 2011. The bill, H.R. 515, calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners in Belarus, including those detained in the post-election crackdown, and refuses to recognize the results of the flawed recent elections.

“The repressive regime in Belarus was in full force earlier this week as police broke up protestors attempting to mark their country’s independence day,” said Rep. Chris Smith author of the legislation and chairman of the House subcommittee panel that oversees human rights. “Hundreds were detained, including independent journalists reporting on rallies held across the country.

“H.R. 515 states a U.S. government policy of strong support for the Belarusian people in their struggle against the Lukashenka dictatorship, aspiring to live in a free and independent country where their human rights are respected, they can choose their government, and officials apply just laws that they themselves are subject to,” said Smith, who is also chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (the Helsinki Commission). “This bill encourages those struggling for decency and basic rights against the overwhelming pressures from the anti-democratic regime.” To view Chairman Smith’s floor remarks, click here.

The bill, which passed tonight in a voice vote, requires the administration to report to Congress on the Belarusan government’s activities in selling arms abroad, censorship or surveillance of the internet, and the personal assets and wealth of Lukashenka and other senior leadership figures. It also states the sense of the Congress that the administration should deny entry into the U.S. of Belarusan senior government officials, as well as their immediate family members and business partners, and members of the security services involved in the post-election crackdown. The bill also expresses the sense of the Congress that the U.S. administration should refuse U.S. government or Trade and Development Agency financing to the government of Belarus.  (photo: AP)

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