Belarus Democracy Act 2003

Belarus Democracy Act 2003

Hon.
Ben N. Campbell
United States
Senate
108th Congress Congress
First Session Session
Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Mr. President, as Co-Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, I have closely monitored developments in the Republic of Belarus and informed my Senate colleagues of disturbing trends in that nation. I have met with members of the fledgling democratic opposition who, at great personal risk, dare to speak out against the repressive regime led by Alexander Lukashenka. I have met with the courageous wives whose husbands disappeared because they stood up to the regime and would not be silent. Against the backdrop of this climate of fear, the powers of the state have been brought to bear against independent journalists, trade unionists, and other voices of dissent.

Increasingly, Belarus has been driven into self-imposed isolation under Lukashenka devoid of legitimate leadership or accountability. A little over a year ago I addressed the Senate to voice concern over reported arms deals between the regime and rouge states, including Iraq. It appears that such sales have taken on greater importance as the Belarusian economy spirals downward.

Mr. President, while some might be tempted to dismiss Belarus as an anomaly, the stakes are too high and the costs too great to ignore. Accordingly, today, I am introducing the Belarus Democracy Act of 2003, which is designed to help put an end to repression and human rights violations in Belarus and to promote Belarus’ entry into a democratic Euro-Atlantic community of nations.

As a participating State in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Belarus has accepted a series of norms in the areas of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. As Europe’s last dictator, Lukashenka continues to brashly trample the fundamental rights of his own people and their culture.

As I alluded to earlier, independent media, non-governmental organizations, trade unions and the democratic opposition have had to operate under extremely difficult conditions, often facing serious mistreatment and an orchestrated campaign of harassment. Despite the repressions there are courageous individuals who support democracy have not been silenced. Two weeks ago, for example, Alexander Yarashuk, the leader of the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions, called on Lukashenka to immediately cease backing Saddam. Moreover, just last week, on March 12, thousands gathered peacefully in a central Minsk square to protest deteriorating economic and social conditions in Belarus. Four of the rally’s organizers – Andrei Sannikov, Ludmila Gryaznova, Dmitry Bondarenko and Leonid Malakhov – were given 15 day jail sentences for “participation in unauthorized mass actions.”

Despite calls for change within Belarus, and considerable prodding from the international community, Lukashenka has shown no desire to deviate from his path of authoritarianism and personal profit at the expense of his own people. A few months ago, Lukashenka, who effectively controls the Belarusian parliament, signed into laws a new, repressive religion law. Local elections held earlier this month followed the pattern of Belarus’ 2000 parliamentary and 2001 presidential elections – they were a joke. Control of election commissions, denials of registration for opposition candidates, “early voting” and outright falsifications were the norm.

Mr. President, the Belarus Democracy Act of 2003 would authorize additional assistance for democracy-building activities such as support for NGOs, independent media, including radio and television broadcasting to Belarus, and international exchanges. It also encourages free and fair parliamentary elections, which have been notably absent in Belarus. This bill would also deny high-ranking officials of the Lukashenka regime entry into the United States. Additionally, strategic exports to the Belarusian Government would be prohibited, as well as U.S. Government financing, except for humanitarian goods and agricultural or medical products. The U.S. executive directors of the international financial institutions would be encouraged to vote against financial assistance to the Government of Belarus except for loans and assistance for humanitarian needs. The bill would also require reports from the President concerning the sale of delivery of weapons or weapons-related technologies from Belarus to rogue states, including Iraq and North Korea.

I am very pleased that the Ranking Member of the Committee on Foreign Relations, Senator Biden, is an original cosponsor of this measure. His support will ensure that we proceed on a bipartisan basis as we work to ensure the timely adoption and implementation of this legislation.

Mr. President, 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. Adoption and implementation of the Belarus Democracy Act will offer a ray of hope that the current period of political, economic and social stagnation will indeed end. The people of Belarus deserve a chance for a brighter future free of repression and fear.

I ask unanimous consent that the text of the Belarus Democracy Act be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the bill was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

S. 700

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the "Belarus Democracy Act of 2003''.

SEC. 2. FINDINGS.

Congress makes the following findings:

(1) The United States supports the promotion of democracy, respect for human rights, and the rule of law in the Republic of Belarus consistent with its commitments as a participating state of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

(2) The United States has a vital interest in the independence and sovereignty of the Republic of Belarus and its integration into the European community of democracies.

(3) The last parliamentary election in Belarus deemed to be free and fair by the international community was conducted in 1995 from which emerged the 13th Supreme Soviet whose democratically and constitutionally derived authorities and powers have been usurped by the authoritarian regime of Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenka.

(4) In November 1996, Lukashenka orchestrated an illegal and unconstitutional referendum that enabled him to impose a new constitution, abolish the duly-elected parliament, the 13th Supreme Soviet, install a largely powerless National Assembly, and extend his term of office to 2001.

(5) In May 1999, democratic forces in Belarus challenged Lukashenka's unconstitutional extension of his presidential term by staging alternative presidential elections which were met with repression.

(6) Democratic forces in Belarus have organized peaceful demonstrations against the Lukashenka regime in cities and towns throughout Belarus which led to beatings, mass arrests, and extended incarcerations.

(7) Victor Gonchar, Anatoly Krasovsky, and Yuri Zakharenka, who have been leaders and supporters of the democratic forces in Belarus, and Dmitry Zavadsky, a journalist known for his critical reporting in Belarus, have disappeared and are presumed dead.

(8) Former Belarus Government officials have come forward with credible allegations and evidence that top officials of the Lukashenka regime were involved in the disappearances.

(9) The Lukashenka regime systematically harasses and represses the independent media and independent trade unions, imprisons independent journalists, and actively suppresses freedom of speech and expression.

(10) The Lukashenka regime harasses the autocephalic Belarusian Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Jewish community, the Hindu Lights of Kalyasa community, evangelical Protestant churches (such as Baptist and Pentecostal groups), and other minority religious groups.

(11) The Law on Religious Freedom and Religious Organizations, passed by the National Assembly and signed by Lukashenka on October 31, 2002, establishes one of the most repressive legal regimes in the OSCE region, severely limiting religious freedom and placing excessively burdensome government controls on religious practice.

(12) The United States, the European Union, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Parliamentary Assembly, and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly have not recognized the National Assembly.

(13) The parliamentary elections of October 15, 2000, conducted in the absence of a democratic election law, were illegitimate, unconstitutional, and plagued by violent human rights abuses committed by the Lukashenka regime, and have been determined by the OSCE to be nondemocratic.

(14) The presidential election of September 9, 2001, was determined by the OSCE and other observers to be fundamentally unfair, to have failed to meet OSCE commitments for democratic elections formulated in the 1990 Copenhagen Document, and to have featured significant and abusive misconduct by the Lukashenka regime, including--

(A) the harassment, arrest, and imprisonment of opposition members;

(B) the denial of equal and fair access by opposition candidates to state-controlled media;

(C) the seizure of equipment and property of independent nongovernmental organizations and press organizations, and the harassment of their staff and management;

(D) voting and vote counting procedures that were not transparent; and

(E) a campaign of intimidation directed against opposition activists, domestic election observation organizations, and opposition and independent media, and a libelous media campaign against international observers.

SEC. 3. ASSISTANCE TO PROMOTE DEMOCRACY AND CIVIL SOCIETY IN BELARUS.

(a) PURPOSES OF ASSISTANCE.--Assistance under this section shall be available for the following purposes:

(1) To assist the people of the Republic of Belarus in regaining their freedom and to enable them to join the European community of democracies.

(2) To encourage free and fair presidential, parliamentary, and local elections in Belarus, conducted in a manner consistent with internationally accepted standards and under the supervision of internationally recognized observers.

(3) To assist in restoring and strengthening institutions of democratic governance in Belarus.

(b) AUTHORIZATION FOR ASSISTANCE.--To carry out the purposes set forth in subsection (a), the President is authorized to furnish assistance and other support for the activities described in subsection (c), to be provided primarily for indigenous groups in Belarus that are committed to the support of democratic processes in Belarus.

(c) ACTIVITIES SUPPORTED.--Activities that may be supported by assistance under subsection (b) include--

(1) the observation of elections and the promotion of free and fair electoral processes;

(2) the development of democratic political parties;

(3) radio and television broadcasting to and within Belarus;

(4) the development of nongovernmental organizations promoting democracy and supporting human rights;

(5) the development of independent media working within Belarus and from locations outside Belarus, and supported by non-state-controlled printing facilities;

(6) international exchanges and advanced professional training programs for leaders and members of the democratic forces in matters central to the development of civil society; and

(7) other activities consistent with the purposes of this Act.

(d) AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.--

(1) IN GENERAL.--There is authorized to be appropriated to the President to carry out this section $40,000,000 for fiscal years 2004 and 2005.

(2) AVAILABILITY OF FUNDS.--Amounts appropriated pursuant to the authorization of appropriations under paragraph (1) are authorized to remain available until expended.

SEC. 4. RADIO BROADCASTING TO BELARUS.

(a) PURPOSE.--It is the purpose of this section to authorize increased support for United States Government and surrogate radio broadcasting to the Republic of Belarus that will facilitate the unhindered dissemination of information in Belarus.

(b) AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.--In addition to such sums as are otherwise authorized to be appropriated, there is authorized to be appropriated $5,000,000 for each fiscal year for Voice of America and RFE/RL, Incorporated for radio broadcasting to the people of Belarus in languages spoken in Belarus.

(c) REPORT ON RADIO BROADCASTING TO AND IN BELARUS.--Not later than 120 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report on how funds appropriated and allocated pursuant to the authorizations of appropriations under subsection (b) and section 3(d) will be used to provide AM and FM broadcasting that covers the territory of Belarus and delivers independent and uncensored programming.

SEC. 5. SANCTIONS AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT OF BELARUS.

(a) APPLICATION OF SANCTIONS.--The sanctions described in subsections (c) and (d), and any sanction imposed under subsection (e) or (f), shall apply with respect to the Republic of Belarus until the President determines and certifies to the appropriate congressional committees that the Government of Belarus has made significant progress in meeting the conditions described in subsection (b).

(b) CONDITIONS.--The conditions referred to in subsection (a) are the following:

(1) The release of individuals in Belarus who have been jailed based on political or religious beliefs.

(2) The withdrawal of politically motivated legal charges against all opposition figures and independent journalists in Belarus.

(3) A full accounting of the disappearances of opposition leaders and journalists in Belarus, including Victor Gonchar, Anatoly Krasovsky, Yuri Zakharenka, and Dmitry Zavadsky, and the prosecution of the individuals who are responsible for their disappearances.

(4) The cessation of all forms of harassment and repression against the independent media, independent trade unions, nongovernmental organizations, religious organizations (including their leadership and members), and the political opposition in Belarus.

(5) The implementation of free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections in Belarus consistent with Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) standards on democratic elections and in cooperation with relevant OSCE institutions.

(c) PROHIBITION ON STRATEGIC EXPORTS TO BELARUS.--

(1) PROHIBITION.--No computers, computer software, goods, or technology intended to manufacture or service computers, or any other related goods or technology, may be exported to Belarus for use by the Government of Belarus, or by its military, police, prison system, or national security agencies. The prohibition in the preceding sentence shall not apply with respect to the export of goods or technology for democracy-building or humanitarian purposes.

(2) RULE OF CONSTRUCTION.--Nothing in this subsection shall prevent the issuance of licenses to ensure the safety of civil aviation and safe operation of commercial passenger aircraft of United States origin or to ensure the safety of ocean-going maritime traffic in international waters.

(d) PROHIBITION ON LOANS AND INVESTMENT.--

(1) UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT FINANCING.--No loan, credit guarantee, insurance, financing, or other similar financial assistance may be extended by any agency of the United States Government (including the Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation) to the Government of Belarus, except with respect to the provision of humanitarian goods and agricultural or medical products.

(2) TRADE AND DEVELOPMENT AGENCY.--No funds available to the Trade and Development Agency may be available for activities of the Agency in or for Belarus.

(e) DENIAL OF ENTRY INTO UNITED STATES OF CERTAIN BELARUS OFFICIALS.--

(1) DENIAL OF ENTRY.--It is the sense of Congress that, in addition to the sanctions provided for in subsections (c) and (d), the President should use the authority under section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1182(f)) to deny the entry into the United States of any alien who--

(A) holds a position in the senior leadership of the Government of Belarus; or

(B) is a spouse, minor child, or agent of a person described in subparagraph (A).

(2) SENIOR LEADERSHIP OF THE GOVERNMENT OF BELARUS DEFINED.--In this subsection, the term ``senior leadership of the Government of Belarus'' includes--

(A) the President, Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Ministers, government ministers, Chairmen of State Committees, and members of the Presidential Administration of Belarus;

(B) any official of the Government of Belarus who is personally and substantially involved in the suppression of freedom in Belarus, including judges and prosecutors; and

(C) any other individual determined by the Secretary of State (or the Secretary's designee) to be personally and substantially involved in the formulation or execution of the policies of the Lukashenka regime in Belarus that are in contradiction of internationally recognized human rights standards.

(f) MULTILATERAL FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE.--It is the sense of Congress that, in addition to the sanctions provided for in subsections (c) and (d), the Secretary of the Treasury should instruct the United States Executive Director of each international financial institution to which the United States is a member to use the voice and vote of the United States to oppose any extension by those institutions of any financial assistance (including any technical assistance or grant) of any kind to the Government of Belarus, except for loans and assistance that serve humanitarian needs.

(g) WAIVER.--The President may waive the application of any sanction described in this section with respect to Belarus if the President determines and certifies to the appropriate congressional committees that it is important to the national interests of the United States to do so.

SEC. 6. MULTILATERAL COOPERATION.

It is the sense of Congress that the President should continue to seek to coordinate with other countries, particularly European countries, a comprehensive, multilateral strategy to further the purposes of this Act, including, as appropriate, encouraging other countries to take measures with respect to the Republic of Belarus that are similar to measures provided for in this Act.

SEC. 7. ANNUAL REPORTS.

(a) REPORTS.--Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, and every year thereafter, the President shall transmit to the appropriate congressional committees a report that describes, with respect to the preceding 12-month period, the following:

(1) The sale or delivery of weapons or weapons-related technologies from the Republic of Belarus to any country, the government of which the Secretary of State has determined, for purposes of section 6(j)(1) of the Export Administration Act of 1979 (50 U.S.C. App. 2405(j)(1)), has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.

(2) An identification of each country described in paragraph (1) and a detailed description of the weapons or weapons-related technologies involved in the sale.

(3) An identification of the goods, services, credits, or other consideration received by Belarus in exchange for the weapons or weapons-related technologies.

(4) The personal assets and wealth of Aleksandr Lukashenka and other senior leadership of the Government of Belarus.

(b) FORM.--A report transmitted pursuant to subsection (a) shall be in unclassified form but may contain a classified annex.

SEC. 8. DECLARATION OF POLICY.

Congress hereby--

(1) expresses its support to those in the Republic of Belarus seeking--

(A) to promote democracy, human rights, and the rule of law and to consolidate the independence and sovereignty of Belarus; and

(B) to promote the integration of Belarus into the European community of democracies;

(2) expresses its grave concern about the disappearances of Victor Gonchar, Anatoly Krasovsky, Yuri Zakharenka, and Dmitry Zavadsky;

(3) calls upon the Lukashenka regime in Belarus to cease its persecution of political opponents or independent journalists and to release those individuals who have been imprisoned for opposing his regime or for exercising their right to freedom of speech;

(4) calls upon the Lukashenka regime to end the pattern of clear, gross, and uncorrected violations of relevant human dimension commitments of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and to respect the basic freedoms of speech, expression, assembly, association, language, culture, and religion or belief;

(5) calls upon the Government of the Russian Federation to use its influence to encourage democratic development in Belarus so that Belarus can become a democratic, prosperous, sovereign, and independent state that is integrated into Europe;

(6) calls upon the Government of Belarus to resolve the continuing constitutional and political crisis in Belarus through--

(A) free, fair, and transparent presidential and parliamentary elections in Belarus, as called for by the OSCE;

(B) respect for human rights in Belarus;

(C) an end to the current climate of fear in Belarus;

(D) meaningful access by the opposition to state media in Belarus;

(E) modification of the electoral code of Belarus in keeping with OSCE commitments;

(F) engagement in genuine talks with the opposition in Belarus; and

(G) modifications of the constitution of Belarus to allow for genuine authority for the parliament; and

(7) commends the democratic opposition in Belarus for their commitment to freedom, their courage in the face of the repression of the Lukashenka regime, and the emergence of a pluralist civil society in Belarus--the foundation for the development of democratic political structures.

SEC. 9. DEFINITION.

In this Act, the term "appropriate congressional committees'' means--

(1) the Committee on International Relations of the House of Representatives; and

(2) the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate. 

Relevant countries: 
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