WASHINGTON – U.S. Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04) released the following statement on the tragic one-year anniversary of the bloody December 19, 2010 election-night crackdown in Belarus, which swept up more than 700 opposition supporters who dared to challenge the rule of Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenka.
“The last year has been an awful one for the Belarusian people. The tactics employed on the infamous night of December 19, 2010 and afterwards confirm the nature of Lukashenka’s rule – a dictatorship that perpetuates a pervasive climate of fear to squelch dissent. In the past year the dictator has undertaken repressive measures on a scale and of a brutality which has not been seen in Europe for more than a decade. These have included the torture of presidential candidates, such as Ales Mikhalevich who recently testified before the Helsinki Commission (link), and other democratic activists. Over the past year, pressure on civil society and on the independent media has been unrelenting. Meanwhile, the economic situation has deteriorated, causing suffering for all Belarusans.”
“It is high time to hold Lukashenka and his henchmen accountable for their reprehensible, despicable treatment of those who defend human rights and struggle for their country’s freedom. On this sad anniversary, we reiterate our demand for the immediate and unconditional release of Andrei Sannikov, Mikalai Statkevich, Zmitser Bondarenka, Zmitser Dashkevich, Ales Bialatski and others imprisoned for exercising their fundamental rights. We call upon Mr. Lukashenka to immediately cease his campaign of repression and allow civil society to freely function, including human rights defenders, defense attorneys and independent journalists.”