Toggle navigation menu.
Helsinki Default Banner

HOUSE OK’S SMITH BILL ON BELARUS

WASHINGTON –Support for people struggling to obtain basic human rights in Belarus—often called Europe’s last dictatorship—came today in the form of the House of Representatives passage of the Belarus Democracy and Human Rights Act of 2011. The bill, H.R. 515, sponsored by Helsinki Commission Chairman Chris Smith (NJ-04), calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners in Belarus, including those jailed in the December 19, 2010, post-election crackdown, and refuses to recognize the results of the flawed election.

“The repressive regime in Belarus was in full force earlier this week as police broke up protestors attempting to mark their country’s independence day,” said Smith, who is also chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee subcommittee panel that oversees human rights. “Hundreds were detained, including independent journalists reporting on rallies held across the country.

“H.R. 515 states a U.S. government policy of strong support for the Belarusian people in their struggle against the Lukashenka dictatorship, aspiring to live in a free and independent country where their human rights are respected, they can choose their government, and officials apply just laws that they themselves are subject to,” said Smith. “This bill encourages those struggling for decency and basic rights against the overwhelming pressures from the anti-democratic regime.” To view Chairman Smith’s floor remarks, click here.

The bill, which passed last night in a voice vote, requires the administration to report to Congress on the Belarusian government’s activities in selling arms abroad, censorship or surveillance of the Internet, and the personal assets and wealth of Lukashenka and other senior leadership figures. It also states the sense of the Congress that the administration should deny entry into the U.S. of Belarusian senior government officials, as well as their immediate family members and business partners, and members of the security services involved in the post-election crackdown.

The measure also supports provisions prohibiting U.S. government financing, except for humanitarian goods and non-humanitarian loans from international financial institutions, such as the IMF, to the Belarusan government; and blocking assets owned by the Belarusian government senior leadership or their families and others involved in human rights violations.

H.R. 515 supports radio, television and Internet broadcasting to Belarus, specifically Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Voice of America, European Radio for Belarus and the satellite television station Belsat. 

The fraudulent December 2010 elections and the more recent brutal crackdown follow the pattern of repression that has characterized Aleksandr Lukashenka’s nearly 17-year rule. During a Helsinki Commission visit to Minsk in June 2009, Smith and then-Chairman Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) and other Commissioners pressed Lukashenka directly on his dismal human rights record and denial of democratic freedoms. Smith authored the Belarus Democracy Acts of 2004 and of 2006; both bills passed the House and Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support and were signed into law.

Media contact

Category
Country
Issue
Date
Filter Topics Open Close
Hearings

Vladimir Kara-Murza: Putin’s Personal Prisoner

Sep 20, 2023

Stream here: HEARING: Vladimir Kara-Murza: Putin’s Personal Prisoner – YouTube Vladimir Kara-Murza, a father, husband, and a freedom fighter, has been in detention for over five hundred days and is currently being transferred to a prison in Siberia. As he is being moved, his family has lost all contact with him and are faced with worry […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Helsinki Commission Leadership Celebrate Pardon of N...

Jun 23, 2023

Washington—Today, the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, Representative Joe Wilson (SC-02) and Ranking Member Steve Cohen (TN-09), applauded Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili’s decision to issue a presidential pardon for journalist Nikoloz “Nika” Gvaramia. Mr. Gvaramia, an outspoken media figure and […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

HELSINKI COMMISSION SENDS APPEAL TO GEORGIAN PRESIDE...

Apr 28, 2023

WASHINGTON— The leadership of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, Chairman Representative Joe Wilson (SC-02), Co-Chairman Senator Ben Cardin (MD), and Ranking Members Representative Steve Cohen (TN-09) and Senator Roger Wicker (MS) sent a letter to Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili urging her to intervene to break […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Helsinki Commission Chair and Co-Chair: Statement on...

Feb 20, 2023

WASHINGTON—Following reports of the sharp deterioration of Azerbaijani dissident Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-2) and Co-Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (MD) issued the following joint statement: “We are absolutely appalled at the continued unwarranted detention and mistreatment of Azerbaijani civil activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, who has been imprisoned on trumped up charges and […]

screen-reader-text
Briefings

Saving Ukraine’s Children

Dec 14, 2022

Ukraine’s children are suffering serious injury and trauma due to Russia’s genocidal war on Ukraine. Almost two-thirds of the country’s children have been displaced. Thousands have been injured and, although UNICEF has said more than 1,000 children have been killed, that number is likely much higher as there is no reliable way to verify how […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Congressmen Cohen and Wilson Introduce Resolution Re...

Oct 28, 2022

WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), Co-Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, and the Commission’s Ranking Member, Congressman Joe Wilson (SC-02), today introduced a resolution recognizing October 30 as International Day of Political Prisoners. Congressman Cohen was recently named the Special Representative on Political Prisoners […]

screen-reader-text
Statements

Congressmen Cohen and Wilson Introduce Resolution Re...

Oct 28, 2022

WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), Co-Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, and the Commission’s Ranking Member, Congressman Joe Wilson (SC-02), today introduced a resolution recognizing October 30 as International Day of Political Prisoners. Congressman Cohen was recently named the Special Representative on Political Prisoners […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Co-Chairman Cohen Discusses Role as Special Represen...

Sep 07, 2022

WASHINGTON—Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Rep Steve Cohen (TN-09) today spoke at a virtual hearing of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA)about his new role as the assembly’s special representative for political prisoners. Co-Chairman Cohen thanked OSCE PA President Margareta Cederfelt of Sweden for naming him to the special representative role […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Co-Chairman Cohen Deplores Arrest of Former Yekateri...

Aug 29, 2022

WASHINGTON—Following the arrest of the Kremlin critic and former Yekaterinburg mayor Yevgeniy Roizman, Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman and OSCE PA Special Representative on Political Prisoners Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09) issued the following statement: “The arrest and prosecution of Yevgeniy Roizman is another milestone in the Kremlin’s descent into a full-blown dictatorship. “Putin’s brutal war against Ukraine […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Co-Chairman Cohen Calls for the Release of Political...

Aug 09, 2022

Washington – On the second anniversary of the sham presidential election in Belarus, the Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman and OSCE PA Special Representative on Political Prisoners Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09) issued the following statement: “Two years ago today, Belarus’s autocrat Aleksander Lukashenko put up a show of an election that he had hoped would legitimize his […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

CO-CHAIRMAN COHEN CALLS FOR THE RELEASE OF ALAA ABD ...

Aug 04, 2022

WASHINGTON— Concerning Alaa Abd el-Fattah’s imprisonment, Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman and OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Special Representative on Political Prisoners Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09) released a letter calling for Secretary Blinken to prioritize “the swift release of Mr. Abd el-Fattah”. The letter read in part: “In 2011, the people of Egypt achieved something remarkable – they ousted […]

screen-reader-text
Publications

Helsinki Commission Digital Digest July 2022

Jul 29, 2022

screen-reader-text