Congressional Record Statements
|PROCEEDINGS AND DEBATES OF THE 106th CONGRESS, 2nd SESSION
||Washington, Wednesday, May 3, 2000
EXPRESSING CONDEMNATION OF CONTINUING HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATION OF BELARUS
Wednesday, May 3, 2000
EXPRESSING CONDEMNATION OF CONTINUED HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN REPUBLIC OF
BELARUS AND CALLING ON RUSSIAN FEDERATION TO RESPECT SOVEREIGNTY OF BELARUS
I thank the gentleman for yielding.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the gentleman from Connecticut (Mr. Gejdenson) and the gentleman from New York (Mr.
Gilman) for their leadership in constructing this resolution condemning violations of human rights and the erosion of democracy
in Belarus in calling upon the Lukashenka regime to restore the constitutional rights of the Belarusian people and on the Russian
Federation to respect the sovereignty of Belarus .
In March, Mr. Speaker, I chaired a second Helsinki Commission hearing on Belarus which addressed many of the issues that
are very importantly highlighted in this resolution. The hearing featured key leaders of Belarus's opposition, including Semyon
Sharetsky and two leading State Department officials as well as the person in the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, Adrian
Severin, who was attempting to forge dialogue between the Belarusian authorities and the opposition. This hearing was a
follow-up to our April 1999 hearing on Belarus . In the last year our commission has made repeated and consistent
intercessions, including through the OSCE, to draw attention to the deplorable situation in Belarus and to encourage the
establishment of a democracy there.
As my friend and colleague from Connecticut just pointed out, there are the allegations, and they would seem to be real, that
have been in some of the newspapers, including the London Sunday Telegraph about the Russians brokering an arms deal to
rebuild the Iraqi air defenses using the Belarusians as the conduit. The Telegraph reported that Beltechexport, the State-owned
Belarusian military hardware company, has agreed to upgrade Iraqi's air defense systems to reequip the Iraqi Air Force and to
provide air defense training for Iraqi troops. The deal is estimated to be worth about $90 million. It was signed in the middle of
April, or last February, I should say, during a visit to Baghdad by high-ranking Belarusians.
It also points out, the article, that Belarusian officials have agreed to undertake a detailed overhaul of 17 Soviet-made Iraqi war
planes which had been in Belarus since the late 1980s.
Again, Mr. Speaker, this directly puts our pilots at risk who are trying to enforce the no-fly zone, and I think this resolution
again gets this Congress focused on the egregious human rights situation and also the military implications of the Belarusian
Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this Resolution, of which I am proud to be an original co-sponsor. I
would like to praise the sponsor, the Gentleman from Connecticut, Mr. Gejdenson, for introducing this Resolution, and
to thank both the Ranking Member and the Chairman of the International Relations Committee, Mr. Gilman, for
bringing the Resolution to the Floor of the House so quickly.
Mr. Speaker, while there have been many success stories among the new independent states of the former Soviet Union
and the other former Warsaw Pact nations, Belarus has not been one of them. Over nearly a decade of independence,
the promise of democracy, freedom of expression and association, and a new flowering of a national identity have not
come to pass for the Belarusan people. The fault for this sad state of affairs rests with President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
The President has illegally extended his term of office beyond the legally mandated expiration date. Throughout his
tenure, President Lukashenka has monopolized the mass media, undermined the constitutional foundation for the
separation of powers, used intimidation and strong-arm tactics against the political opposition, suppressed freedom of
the press and expression, defamed the national culture, maligned the national language and eroded Belarus's rightfull
position as a sovereign nation.
Apart from the daily deprivations and indignities that the Belarusan people must endure, perhaps the saddest outcome of
Mr. Lukashenka's rule is that his efforts have created the impression--a false one--that Belarus really has no distinct
national culture or character. Nothing could be further from the truth. But the formation of the Union State between
Russia and Belarus only serves to further perpetuate this false impression. While the tragic reality is that Belarus has been
dominated politically for centuries by Russia, the fact remains that Belarus has its own national symbols and a distinct
It's no coincidence that authoritarian President Lukashenka has targeted such national symbols as the nation's flag and
coat of arms. As part of this campaign, Lukashenka's regime has ordered that schools go back to using Soviet-Russian
textbooks, while the Russian language has been made the official language of the Belarusan Parliament in Minsk.
Lukashenka's strategy has been to create conditions to justify the claim that history, language and culture inevitably tie the
two countries together.
The Belarusan language endures to this day as a key to national survival, both for the people living in the Republic of
Belarus and among the Belarusan diaspora in the U.S. and elsewhere. There are centuries-old legal documents and
religious texts written in the Belarusan language, as well as modern literary and historic works. Despite Lukashenka's
repression, the cause of Belarusan nationalism still burns in the heart of the Belarusan people, with the Belarusan
language the means of expressing it.
Failure to acknowledge the harm done to Belarusan culture and national singularity by the Russian-Belarus merger can
only give comfort to Lukashenka and the Russian-Soviet irredentists.
Mr. Speaker, the negligence and mismanagement of Mr. Lukashenka's regime has also put at risk the nation's
environment and the health of the people. Just last week, former Belarusan President Stanislau Shushkevich spoke at
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's (RFE/RL) Washington office on the occasion of the 14th anniversary of the
Chernobyl nuclear disaster in neighboring Ukraine. More than 70 percent of the radioactive fallout from the world's
worst nuclear accident fell on Belarusan territory. While there is plenty of blame to go around for mishandling of this
disaster--among Soviet officials, and post-Soviet officials in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus --President Lukashenka
exacerbates the problems by insisting that all aid to Chernobyl victims pass through his hands. These funds often are
diverted to other uses. Fortunately, some Western NGOs and religious organizations have bypassed Lukashenka to get
aid to the people who really need it.
Also last week, RFE/RL President Thomas A. Dine denounced efforts by the Belarusan KGB to intimidate journalists
from that organization working in Belarus . Mr. Dine's statement came in response to the threats against Yahor
Mayorchyk, a reporter for the news service funded by this Congress to provide objective information to people from the
region. A KGB officer told Mr. Mayorchyk that the `same thing will happen to you as to Babitsky,' a reference to
RFE/RL journalist Andrei Babitsky who was arrested for his coverage of the war in Chechnya and faces trumped-up
charges in Moscow.
Mr. Speaker, the abuses of the Lukashenka regime have been a source of concern for at least the past four years. In
1996, I introduced a Resolution expressing concern over the Lukashenka regime's violations of human and civil rights in
direct violation of the Helsinki accords and the constitution of Belarus , and expressing concern about the union between
Russia and Belarus . That Resolution also recognized March 25 as the anniversary of the declaration of an independent
Belarusan state. A year later, I worked with leaders of the International Relations Committee to include language in the
State Department Authorization bill, which passed the House, calling for our President to press the Government of
President Lukashenka on defending the sovereignty of Belarus and guaranteeing basic freedoms and human rights.
For years now, the Belarusan-American community has been trying to inform the American people about the truth in
Belarus , that President Lukashenka's actions do not have widespread support and his regime has lost any sense of
legitimacy it once may have had. I want to thank the Belarusan-American community in New Jersey and throughout the
nation for continuing to speak the truth about events in the land of their ancestors.
Obviously, President Lukashenka has not been moved by these expressions of concern by the United States and the
international community. But we must not give up. We should go on record condemning the abuses that have taken
place, and continue to take place in Belarus . We must urge our President and State Department to keep the pressure on
President Lukashenka--and also Russian President Vladimir Putin.
For these and many other reasons, I urge my colleagues to support passage of this Resolution.
[Page: H2428] GPO's PDF
Mr. GILMAN. Mr. Speaker, I have no further requests for time, and I yield back the balance of my time.
The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Gutknecht). The question is on the motion offered by the gentleman from New York (Mr.
Gilman) that the House suspend the rules and agree to the concurrent resolution, H. Con. Res. 304.
The question was taken.
Mr. GILMAN. Mr. Speaker, on that I demand the yeas and nays.
The yeas and nays were ordered.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to clause 8 of rule XX and the Chair's prior announcement, further proceedings on this
motion will be postponed.
Hon. Christopher H. Smith
of New Jersey
Freedom of the Media