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CHAIRMAN SMITH: “BELARUS – ‘EUROPE’S LAST DICTATORSHIP’ – MUST STOP CRUSHING THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF ITS PEOPLE”

WASHINGTON –The Lukashenka dictatorship that rules Belarus should be held accountable for its crimes against the Belarusian people in their struggle for freedom, human rights, and democracy, said Chairman Chris Smith (NJ-04), a leading voice on human rights in Congress and chair of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), at an April 1, 2011, joint hearing of the House Human Rights Subcommittee, which he also chairs, and the House Europe and Eurasia Subcommittee chaired by Chairman Dan Burton (IN-05).

Smith called the recent December elections a “mockery” reminiscent of the late Soviet era, with crackdowns on the democratic political opposition and independent media, accompanied by unfair trials, harsh sentences, harassment and intimidation by the KGB, interrogations, raids, and other forms of pressure on families of the opposition.

“Alexander Lukashenka continues to turn a deaf ear to all criticism of his government,” said Smith. “After the election, Lukashenka said that Belarus will have no more ‘mindless democracy,’ clearly manifesting his sneering contempt for the Belarusian people, many of whose lives he has ruined – and whose country he stole 16 years ago, transforming it into a grotesque anomaly, Europe’s ‘last dictatorship.’” Click here for Chairman Smith’s statement at the hearing.

During a U.S. Helsinki Commission visit to Minsk in June 2009, Smith pressed Lukashenka directly on his dismal human rights record and denial of democratic freedoms. Smith has previously authored the Belarus Democracy Acts of 2004 and of 2006, both signed into law. Recently, he introduced the Belarus Democracy and Human Rights Act of 2011, H.R. 515.

Witnesses at the hearing included: Dan Russell, the Deputy Assistant Secretary in the State Department’s Bureau of Europe and European Affairs; David Kramer, Executive Director of Freedom House, and former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs; and Matthew Rojansky, the Deputy Director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment and former Executive Director of the Partnership for a Secure America.

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