WASHINGTON – The Co-Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ), has introduced legislation to withhold American aid to the governments of Central Asia that fail to democratize and respect human rights, while focusing foreign assistance on related civil society activity. The bill, HR 3189, is called the Central Asia Democracy and Human Rights Act (CADHRA) of 2005.
“After almost 15 years of independence, the five countries of Central Asia are still struggling in their transition to democracy. I believe the United States should use every means at its disposal to encourage real reform, which ultimately promotes long-term stability and security in the region and supports American values. That’s the objective of my legislation,” said Smith.
Under CADHRA, all non-humanitarian assistance to each government covered under the legislation would be conditioned on the President certifying that the country is making “substantial, sustained and demonstrable progress toward democratization and full respect for human rights.” U.S. assistance would be reduced by 33% for each year a positive determination cannot be made. In the third year, all aid to that government would be discontinued, unless the President restores 33% on national security grounds. Assistance can be restored over a three-year period if a country is certified to be making progress on democratization and human rights. The ban on non-humanitarian aid would include military assistance.
“The ban on military aid is critical,” said Smith. “The governments of the Central Asia region need to be aware that they endanger the length and breadth of their relationship with the United States when they fail to respect human rights. Repression often breeds extremism and terrorism. President Bush called for America to stand with freedom, and my bill embraces that call.”
Under CADHRA, the President evaluates whether the governments of Central Asia are eligible for U.S. aid on the basis of their adherence to democratization, the protection of press and speech freedoms, freedom of religion and assembly, the establishment and enforcement of legal prohibitions against torture and inhumane punishment or imprisonment, and the maintenance of the rule of law, including prohibitions against discrimination, corruption and human trafficking.
“CADHRA is a comprehensive approach, as withheld funds are redirected towards democratization and human rights projects. I hope my colleagues recognize the urgent need for this legislation, especially given the deteriorating political situation in Central Asia,” added Smith. “We will never win the war on terrorism unless the United States clearly stands for freedom.”
In addition to reallocating withheld funds from Central Asian governments to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), individuals, and entities that support democracy, the bill also allocates set funds to promote democracy and U.S. radio broadcasts to the states of Central Asia.