Toggle navigation menu.
Helsinki Default Banner

President Bush Signs Belarus Democracy Act on Heels of Rigged Elections and Referendum

Washington – President George W. Bush signed the Belarus Democracy Act into law Wednesday, stating, “At a time when freedom is advancing around the world, Aleksandr Lukashenka and his government are turning Belarus into a regime of repression in the heart of Europe, its government isolated from its neighbors and its people isolated from each other.”

The Belarus Democracy Act (H.R. 854), sponsored by United States Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), unanimously passed the House of Representatives on October 4 and the United States Senate on October 6.  The original measure had been introduced in the Senate by Commission Co-Chairman Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO). 

President Bush’s signature comes three days after Belarus held fundamentally flawed parliamentary elections and a referendum allowing Belarusian dictator Aleksandr Lukashenka unlimited terms as president.  Lukashenka’s current “term” expires in 2006. 

“The Belarus Democracy Act will help us support those within Belarus who are working toward democracy,” Bush added. “We welcome this legislation as a means to bolster friends of freedom and to nurture the growth of democratic values, habits, and institutions within Belarus. The fate of Belarus will rest not with a dictator, but with the students, trade unionists, civic and religious leaders, journalists, and all citizens of Belarus claiming freedom for their nation.”

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, with nearly 300 election observers, said Belarus’ elections fell significantly short of OSCE commitments for democratic elections.

“Given the state’s domination over the media and constant assault on the independent press, and given the authorities’ near total control of all facets of the electoral apparatus, the referendum and parliamentary elections in Belarus were neither free nor fair,” said Chairman Smith.  “Yet again there was no hint of a level playing field nor transparency in the electoral process.  The Government of Belarus has failed to address the four OSCE criteria for free and fair elections in Belarus which were established more than four years ago.  It was evident throughout the electoral period that a chilling climate of fear remains in Belarus.”

“The rigged referendum certainly did nothing to legitimize Lukashenka’s now ten-year repressive rule.  Likewise, the new National Assembly will lack legitimacy because of the fundamentally flawed nature of these elections,” said Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Campbell.  “These farcical elections underscore the importance of the Belarus Democracy Act, with its strong commitment to democracy, human rights and rule of law in Belarus.”

Chairman Smith and Co-Chairman Campbell expressed outrage at Tuesday’s vicious beating by security forces of United Civic Party leader Anatoly Lebedka, causing him to be hospitalized.  Both Smith and Campbell have met with Lebedka on several occasions in Washington and in Europe during meetings of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.

Some 40 individuals were beaten, arrested and detained for peacefully protesting the “official results” of Sunday’s elections and referendum.

“The violence perpetrated by the authorities only serves to further expose the nature of Lukashenka’s dictatorial regime,” said Chairman Smith.

“One would think that with his referendum ‘victory,’ Lukashenka would have enough confidence to allow peaceful expression of views without resorting to brutal force,” added Co-Chairman Campbell.

The Belarus Democracy Act promotes democratic development, human rights and the rule of law in Belarus, and encourages the consolidation and strengthening of Belarus’ sovereignty and independence.  The bill authorizes assistance for democracy-building activities such as support for non-governmental organizations, independent media – including radio broadcasting into Belarus – and international exchanges. 

The Belarus Democracy Act also encourages free and fair parliamentary elections; supports imposition of sanctions on Lukashenka’s regime; and requires reports from the president concerning the sale or delivery of weapons or weapons-related technologies from Belarus to rogue states and reports on Lukashenka’s personal wealth and assets as well as those of other senior Belarusian leaders.

Media contact

Category
Country
Issue
Date
Filter Topics Open Close
Press Releases

Helsinki Commission Deeply Concerned Over Latest Ele...

Jul 27, 2022

WASHINGTON—Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (MD) and  Co-Chairman Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09) today expressed deep concern about an effort by the international community’s High Representative in Bosnia to impose changes on the country’s electoral system barely two months prior to general elections in early October. They issued the following joint statement: “We share the concerns […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Co-Chairman Cohen Welcomes Conclusion of First Round...

Apr 12, 2022

WASHINGTON—Following the first round of presidential elections in France on April 10, Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09) issued the following statement: “As co-chairman of the bipartisan U.S. Helsinki Commission, I congratulate the French people for making their voices heard on Sunday during the first round of their presidential elections. France is among the […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Helsinki Commission Supports Invocation of OSCE’s Vi...

Nov 10, 2021

WASHINGTON—Following the invocation of the OSCE’s Vienna Mechanism to address the mounting human rights crisis in Belarus, Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (MD), Co-Chairman Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09), Ranking Member Sen. Roger Wicker (MS), and Ranking Member Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-02) issued the following joint statement: “One year after the release of a comprehensive, […]

screen-reader-text
helsinki commission logo 368x331
Publications

Helsinki Commission Digital Digest September 2021

Sep 30, 2021

screen-reader-text
In the News

The Russian election was supposed to shore up Putin’...

Sep 25, 2021

Electoral precinct 40, located in a charming historic area a few minutes’ walking distance from the Kremlin, is among the few in Moscow that can be trusted to count votes honestly. Ever since I first voted here at the age of 18, the official tallies have always reflected the actual votes cast. In Moscow’s 2013 mayoral […]

screen-reader-text
Hearings

Seeking Justice and Freedom in Belarus

Sep 21, 2021

In 2020, mass protests against the fraudulent election of Alexander Lukashenko shook Belarus. Since then, Lukashenko and his illegitimate regime have clung to power by committing ever more serious acts of repression against advocates of democracy and free expression. Hundreds of political prisoners languish in pre-trial detention or have been sentenced to years in prison […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Helsinki Commission Leaders Blast So-Called Election...

Sep 21, 2021

WASHINGTON—Following the sham State Duma elections in Russia, Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (MD), Co-Chairman Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09), and Ranking Members Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) and Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-02) issued the following statements: “From barring opposition candidates to stuffing ballot boxes and manipulating vote totals, there is ample evidence that these parliamentary […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Repression in Belarus Focus of Upcoming Helsinki Com...

Sep 16, 2021

WASHINGTON—The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, today announced the following hearing: SEEKING JUSTICE AND FREEDOM IN BELARUS Tuesday, September 21, 2021 2:30 p.m. Dirksen Senate Office Building Room 419 Watch live: www.youtube.com/HelsinkiCommission More than a year has passed since mass protests against the fraudulent election of Alexander […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Chairman Cardin Joins Bipartisan Resolution Highligh...

Aug 09, 2021

WASHINGTON—Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (MD) today joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers to introduce a resolution on the one-year anniversary of the fraudulent presidential election in Belarus through which Alexander Lukashenko seized power for a sixth term.  The resolution, led by Helsinki Commissioner Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (NH) and Helsinki Commission Ranking Member Sen. […]

screen-reader-text
Statements

Cardin and Wicker Discuss July 2021 Congressional De...

Jul 21, 2021

Mr. CARDIN. Madam President, I take this time to talk about the work of the U.S. Helsinki Commission in a recent opportunity we had to participate in the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. I am joined on the floor by Senator Wicker, who is the Republican chair of the Helsinki Commission. The two of us have worked […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Helsinki Commission Delegation Advances Priority Iss...

Jul 15, 2021

WASHINGTON—Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (MD) and Ranking Member Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) last week led a U.S. delegation to the 2021 OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (PA) Annual Session in Vienna, Austria. The assembly was the first major gathering with an in-person component since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. The 2021 […]

screen-reader-text
Statements

45th Anniversary of the U.S. Helsinki Commission

Jun 21, 2021

I take this time as the Chair of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, better known as the Helsinki Commission, as we celebrate our 45th anniversary. The Helsinki Commission is the vehicle for U.S. participation in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), representing 57 states that have come together under […]

screen-reader-text