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US Senate demands imposing strict sanctions against Lukashenka and holding new elections

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US Senate demands imposing strict sanctions against Lukashenka and holding new elections

The US Senate has unanimously approved the resolution denouncing the Belarusian presidential elections in December 2010 as illegitimate and fraudulent.

The resolution, with its preamble, reads as follows:

S. Res. 105

Whereas the people of Belarus have lived under the brutal dictatorship of Alexander Lukashenko for almost 2 decades;

Whereas, under Mr. Lukashenko's rule, Belarus--which is known as ``the last dictatorship of Europe''--has defied the post-Soviet democratic transformation that swept eastern and central Europe by maintaining an abhorrent human and political rights record and denying its citizens fundamental freedoms;

Whereas, according to the United States Department of State 2009 Human Rights Country Report on Belarus, elections in Belarus are consistently unfair and undemocratic; politically motivated arrests and detentions are ongoing; Belarus' judiciary is not independent; beatings, poor treatment, and disease are widespread in prisons in Belarus, where detainees lack access to food, proper clothing, and medical treatment; and the Government of Belarus has severely and systematically restricted basic freedoms of press, speech, assembly, association, and religion;

Whereas Mr. Lukashenko had an opportunity to move Belarus closer to the community of democracies by holding free and fair presidential elections on December 19, 2010, and allowing for multiple opposition candidates to run for president;

Whereas the Lukashenko regime squandered this opportunity for the people of Belarus by orchestrating a fraudulent election that failed to meet minimal international standards;

Whereas, following the elections, the Lukashenko regime arrested 5 of the 6 opposition presidential candidates, severely beating one candidate, Uladzimir Niakliayeu, and arbitrarily beating many of the thousands of Belarusians who were peacefully protesting the stolen election in the largest public demonstration the country had seen in over 5 years;

Whereas, during the course of election day and its aftermath, Lukashenko's security forces, the State Security Agency (KGB), detained or arrested over 600 additional people, including journalists, civil society representatives, political activists, and ordinary Belarusians who were peacefully seeking to exercise their fundamental human rights to free assembly and expression;

Whereas the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Election Observation Mission, which monitored the election in Belarus, issued a statement of preliminary findings and conclusions on December 20, 2010, that criticized the election's campaign environment as ``characterized by the lack of a level-playing field'' and reported that international observers assessed the vote count as ``non-transparent'' and ``bad or very bad in almost half of all observed polling stations'';

Whereas, according to Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe observers, prominent international websites, including Gmail and Hotmail, and Belarusian websites including Charter97.org, euroradio.by, gazetaby.com, and zapraudu.info were rendered inaccessible on election day;

Whereas, on February 22, 2011, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe stated in its final report on the December 19, 2010, election that the final vote count was ``flawed and lacked transparency'';

Whereas Department of State spokesperson Philip J. Crowley said on December 20, 2010, ``We cannot consider the election results as legitimate.'';

Whereas, on December 20, 2010, the Obama Administration called for the release of all detained presidential candidates and protestors arrested around the election and strongly condemned the violence used by the Lukashenko regime to ``undermine the democratic process'';

Whereas on December 23, 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton strongly condemned the Lukashenko regime's disproportionate use of violence and called for ``the immediate release of the presidential candidates and the over 600 demonstrators who have been taken into custody in the wake of the presidential elections in Belarus'';

Whereas the heads of the foreign affairs committees of the German and Polish parliaments issued a joint statement on December 31, 2010, stating that the presidential election in Belarus showed ``a complete lack of respect for European values and standards'';

Whereas, on January 20, 2011, the European Parliament adopted a resolution that condemns the December 19, 2010, elections in Belarus and their violent aftermath; demands the immediate and unconditional release of political prisoners; and calls for ``new elections to be held'' in Belarus under ``free and democratic conditions'' and ``according to OSCE standards'';

Whereas, on December 31, 2010, the Government of Belarus refused to extend the mandate of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe office in Minsk, thereby shuttering the democratic institution building efforts of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Belarus;

Whereas, on January 4, 2011, Department of State spokesperson Philip J. Crowley and Darren Ennis, Spokesperson for European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton, issued a joint statement expressing regret over the closure of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Office in Belarus and calling on authorities in Belarus ``to fulfill their commitments to the OSCE by reforming the election process and providing greater respect for human rights'';

Whereas the Belarusian KGB continues to detain at least 32 political opposition leaders and activists associated with the December 19, 2010, elections who face dubious charges that carry prison sentences up to 15 years;

Whereas, on February 28, 2011, Ales Mikhalevich, a presidential candidate who was arrested following the December 19, 2010, elections and released on January 19, 2011, issued a statement detailing the abuse and torture that he endured during his 2-month detention by the Belarusian KGB, in violation of existing Belarusian laws as well as international agreements, including the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, done at New York December 10, 1984, to which Belarus has been a signatory since December 1985;

Whereas families of presidential candidates and political opposition leaders and their lawyers face continued harassment and intimidation by Lukashenko's KGB, including repeated interrogations, raids, pressure, and threats of dismissal from places of employment and schools;

Whereas the detained presidential candidates and political opposition leaders are being denied regular access to family, lawyers, medical treatment, and open legal proceedings;

Whereas authorities in Belarus continue to carry out searches and seizures across the country, including the offices and homes of journalists, political activists, civil society representatives, former presidential candidates and their advisers, and ordinary Belarusians with tenuous connections to members of the political opposition;

Whereas, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, an internationally reputable source on global arms trade, the Lukashenko regime delivered a shipment of military equipment to the Qaddafi regime in Libya in February 2011, just before Qaddafi prepared to initiate the widely condemned bloody crackdown undertaken against the people of Libya;

Whereas, on January 31, 2011, the United States and the European Union imposed targeted travel and financial sanctions on an expanded list of officials of the Government of Belarus, including Alexander Lukashenko and those helping prop up his regime;

Whereas, on January 31, 2011, the United States Government also restricted economic transactions with Lakokraska OAO and Polotsk Steklovolokno OAO, 2 subsidiaries of Belarus's largest state-owned petroleum and chemical conglomerate, Belneftekhim;

Whereas, on February 2, 2011, the United States Government pledged to supplement its democracy assistance to Belarus by $4,000,000 in fiscal year 2011;

Whereas, on March 2, 2011, Lukashenko's regime sentenced 3 of the political detainees, Alyaksandr Atroshchankau, Zmitster Novik, and Alyaksandr Malchanau, to between 3 and 4 years in a top-security prison;

Whereas on March 4, 2011, Department of State Spokesman P.J. Crowley said, ``The United States remains gravely concerned over the continuing post-election crackdown

by the Government of Belarus on civil society, independent media, and the political opposition. Through its ongoing detentions, trials, and harsh prison sentences, the government is creating new political prisoners. We urge the unconditional release of those detained in the crackdown without trials, and the creation of space for the free expression of political views, the development of civil society, and the ability of citizens to expand their contact with open societies.''; and

Whereas Congress passed the Belarus Democracy Act of 2004 (Public Law 108-347) and the Belarus Democracy Reauthorization Act of 2006 (Public Law 109-480) as expressions of support consistent with these aims: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Senate--

(1) condemns the December 19, 2010, election in Belarus as illegitimate, fraudulent, and not representative of the will or the aspirations of the voters in Belarus, and joins the European Parliament in calling for new elections to be held in Belarus that meet international standards;

(2) condemns the beating, arrest, fining, and imprisonment of presidential candidates, opposition leaders, and activists by Alexander Lukashenko's KGB in the wake of the December 19, 2010, election;

(3) condemns the Lukashenko regime's systematic efforts to prevent freedom of expression and association in Belarus, including its efforts to censor the Internet and stifle freedom of the press;

(4) stands in solidarity with the people of Belarus, those political prisoners being unjustly detained, and those who continue to fight for peaceful democratic change and their fundamental human rights in Belarus;

(5) applauds the pledges of the United States Government and the European Union to impose targeted sanctions, including visa bans and asset freezes, on Belarusian officials and their associates responsible for the recent crackdown and human rights abuses against the people of Belarus;

(6) applauds the decisions of the United States Government, the European Union, and other democratic allies to expand assistance to civil society in Belarus;

(7) calls on the Lukashenko regime--

(A) to immediately and unconditionally release all political prisoners in Belarus who were arrested in association with the December 19, 2010, election, including 3 presidential candidates, Andrei Sannikov, Nikolai Statkevich, and Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu, who are still in prison or under house arrest;

(B) to immediately cease the harassment of the families, friends, and lawyers of political prisoners in Belarus;

(C) to authorize the extension of the mandate of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Office in Belarus;

(D) to hold new presidential and parliamentary elections in Belarus that are free, fair, inclusive, and meet international standards; and

(E) to meet its international obligations and cease any illegal efforts related to the provision of arms to rogue regimes;

(8) urges the President and the Secretary of State--

(A) to continue to closely coordinate United States and European Union policies towards Belarus;

(B) to resume direct technical and material support to the opposition and civil society in Belarus, including political parties, civic groups, and independent media outlets;

(C) to ensure that the United States list includes any other officials of the Government of Belarus responsible for the crackdown following the December 19, 2010, election in Belarus, associated human rights abuses, and the continued detention, prosecution, and mistreatment of all political prisoners, and to impose targeted sanctions on those individuals and their family members where warranted; and

(D) to identify any other entities that enrich Mr. Lukashenko and his regime at the expense of the people of Belarus and prohibit business with and freeze the assets of such entities;

(9) urges the European Union--

(A) to join the United States in prohibiting business with, and freezing the assets of, the Belarusian state-owned oil and petrochemicals company Belneftekhim and its subsidiaries Lakokraska OAO and Polotsk Steklovolokno OAO, as well as other entities that enrich Mr. Lukashenko and his regime at the expense of the people of Belarus;

(B) to cut all European projects linked to the authorities in Belarus responsible for the crackdown and associated human rights abuses and to exclude officials of the Government of Belarus from meetings under the European Union's Eastern Partnership policy--including the planned European Union summit with post-Soviet countries scheduled to take place in Budapest in May 2011--but to ensure that this suspension not apply to nongovernmental and civil society organizations in Belarus;

(C) to ensure that the European Union list includes any other officials of the Government of Belarus responsible for the crackdown following the December 19, 2010, election in Belarus, associated human rights abuses, and the continued detention, prosecution, and mistreatment of political prisoners, and to impose targeted sanctions on those officials and their family members where warranted; and

(D) to increase support to the opposition and civil society in Belarus, including political parties, civic groups, and independent media outlets;

(10) calls on other members of the international community, including Russia, to take similar targeted actions against the leaders of the Government of Belarus;

(11) calls on the Government of Lithuania, as chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe for 2011, to make the reestablishment of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Office in Belarus one of its chief priorities for its tenure; and

(12) calls on the International Ice Hockey Federation to suspend its 2014 International World Ice Hockey championship to be hosted in Minsk, Belarus until all political prisoners in Belarus are released.

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