WASHINGTON–Responding to the selective prosecution of opposition political leaders, including former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, by the Ukrainian government, Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04) introduced a resolution promoting human rights and democracy in that country. The resolution demands that the Ukrainian government cease selective prosecutions, free Ms. Tymoshenko and other officials of the former government currently in prison, and act to ensure a democratic, fair and transparent election process in the run-up to the October 28, 2012, parliamentary elections. (To read the resolution, H.Res. 730, please click here.)
“Under President Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine has seen an alarming decline in its democratic development,” said Rep. Smith, Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission. “This resolution outlines measures the Ukrainian government must take, consistent with its OSCE obligations, to reverse the backsliding. Congress has a longstanding record of supporting the Ukrainian people in building an independent, democratic Ukraine based on the rule of law and respect for human rights. Americans are profoundly interested in Ukraine’s independence and future democratic evolution.”
With Ukraine’s impending leadership of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe – the country will be Chair-in-Office for 2013 – the resolution urges the Ukrainian government to take immediate measures to reverse the current anti-democratic course and display exemplary conduct, especially in human rights and fundamental freedoms, democracy and the rule of law. To underscore the seriousness of concerns about Ukraine’s democratic regression, the resolution calls for denying U.S. visas to Ukrainian officials involved in serious human rights abuses, anti-democratic actions, such as electoral fraud, or corruption, including officials involved in the selective prosecution and persecution of political opponents.
On May 17, Chairman Smith chaired a Helsinki Commission hearing addressing the upcoming elections and imprisonment of opposition leaders. (To view Chairman Smith’s remarks and witness testimony, please click here.)
The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, is an independent agency of the Federal Government charged with monitoring compliance with the Helsinki Accords and advancing comprehensive security through promotion of human rights, democracy, and economic, environmental and military cooperation in 56 countries. The Commission consists of nine members from the U.S. Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce.