Vol. 11, Issue No. 31/2004
This letter from Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell was sent to each of his Senate colleagues last week.* In the last few days, Senators Joseph Lieberman and Thad Cochran have joined the Senators listed in the letter below as cosponsors.
Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbellšs letter about the Republic of Belarus
Last year, I introduced the Belarus Democracy Act of 2003 (S. 700) - which is designed to help promote democratic development, human rights and rule of law in the Republic of Belarus, as well as encourage the consolidation and strengthening of Belarus' sovereignty and independence. I urge you cosponsor this bipartisan resolution supported by Senators Biden, Chambliss, Durbin, Lautenberg, McCain and Voinovich.
As Europe's last dictator, Aleksander Lukashenka continues to trample the fundamental rights of the people of Belarus. As a result, Belarus has the poorest human rights record of any country in Europe today. In the last year, Lukashenka's assault on civil society has only intensified, with the liquidation of NGOs, violence against opposition activists, and repression of the independent media and trade unions.
Belarus has adopted the most restrictive religion law in Europe. Increasingly, Belarus hasbeen driven into self-imposed isolation under Lukashenka devoid of legitimate leadership or accountability. The situation in Belarus continues its downward spiral with daily reports of growing repression and blatant human rights violations.
In an extraordinary step, the International Labor Organization (ILO) has established a commission of inquiry - only the eleventh time in the body's 84 year history - to examine violations of trade union rights in Belarus. Meanwhile, the Council of Europe is actively investigating credible allegations of Lukashenka regime involvement in the murders of opposition members and a journalist.
While some might be tempted to dismiss Belarus as an anomaly, the stakes are too high and the costs too great to ignore. The goal of the Belarus Democracy Act is to assist Belarus in becoming a genuine European state, in which respect for human rights and democracy is the norm and in which the long-suffering Belarusian people are able to overcome the legacy of dictatorship - past and present. If you are interested in becoming cosponsor of the Belarus Democracy Act, please have your staff contact Orest Deychakiwsky at the Helsinki Commission at 5-3964.
Ben Nighthorse Campbell
* At the end of January 2004.