5 December 2020, Saturday, 21:03
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The Belarus Democracy Act: The USA Develop Sanctions On Lukashenka’s Family

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The Belarus Democracy Act: The USA Develop Sanctions On Lukashenka’s Family

The US does not recognize Lukashenka.

A group of congressmen submitted a bill to the U.S. House of Representatives on amendments to the Belarus Democracy Act of 2004. The Act of 2004 provided for sanctions against the Belarusian regime and assistance to NGOs and independent media advocating for democracy and human rights. The bill "Act on Democracy, Human Rights and Sovereignty of Belarus" was developed by Republican Chris Smith and a group of congressmen. On October, the Committee of the House of Representatives on Foreign Relations will hold its first consideration of the bill.

The text of the bill is published on the Congress website.

If adopted, the U.S. Secretary of State and head of national intelligence must submit a report on the threat to the sovereignty and independence of Belarus on the part of Russia within 120 days. The report on the property of Aliaksandr Lukashenka must be submitted by the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of State and the Intelligence Chief within 90 days. It should provide information on bank accounts, investments and other business interests of Lukashenka and his family members.

The bill says that the Belarusian authorities with Aliaksandr Lukashenka in charge continue to violate human rights and basic principles of democracy, including by forging parliamentary and presidential elections, persecuting and arresting political activists and peaceful protesters, suppressing independent media and journalists, restricting access to the Internet, and continuing their campaign of repressions against NGOs, trade unions and entrepreneurs.

The authors of the bill note that the Belarusian authorities "pursue the policy that undermines the sovereignty and independence of the country, subordinating the political, economic, cultural and social interests of Belarus to those of Russia.

Congressmen claim that the August elections were rigged and did not meet international standards. After the elections, the authorities violently suppressed the most massive peaceful protests in the country's history and tried to stop the Coordinating Council. The authorities also restrict freedom of speech by blocking the Internet, depriving journalists of accreditation, and intimidating and detaining journalists.

"Against the will of the majority of the Belarusian people, Russian President Vladimir Putin supported Aliaksandr Lukashenka's regime, having offered him security assistance, substantial financial support and sent Russian propagandists to help spread pro-governmental propaganda on Belarusian state television," the bill says.

The authors of the bill believe the U.S. should condemn the August elections, as well as the persecution of opposition candidates, members of the Coordinating Council, peaceful protesters, workers on strike, independent observers, independent journalists and bloggers. The U.S. calls for the release of all political prisoners, including U.S. citizen Vitaly Shklyarov, to support the Belarusian people, not to recognize the incorporation of Belarus into the Union State with Russia, "as the so-called Union State will simultaneously be an attempt to occupy Belarus and a step towards the restoration of the totalitarian Soviet Union".

The U.S. does not recognize the results of the 9 August 2020 elections and refuses to treat Aliaksandr Lukashenka as the legitimately elected leader of Belarus, the bill says.

The U.S. supports the OSCE as a mediator in the national dialogue, recognizes the Coordinating Council as a legitimate institution for dialogue on the peaceful transfer of power, and advocates an expanded diplomatic presence in Belarus.

The bill offers:

to support activities aimed at fighting Internet censorship and surveillance technologies;

to support the activities of women who advocate for freedom and human rights;

to support the development of education in the Belarusian language;

to support private sector development, especially the IT sphere, including through the development of business support organizations, provision of training for entrepreneurs, expansion of access to financing for small and medium enterprises;

to support political refugees from Belarus in European countries;

to support the evidence collection and investigation of human rights violations in Belarus;

to support the healthcare system during the pandemic, including by filling the information vacuum;

to increase funding for Radio Free Europe/Radio Svaboda;

to support independent media, especially those using the Belarusian language;

to provide journalists in Belarus with technology to bypass censorship;

Within 120 days after the adoption of the law, the head of the U.S. Agency for Global Media and the Secretary of State must present a detailed strategy that will reflect:

expansion of radio, TV and Internet news broadcasting in Belarus, especially in the Belarusian language;

support for the development and use of censorship bypassing technologies;

countering attempts of the Belarusian authorities to block access to the Internet;

monitoring the cooperation of the Belarusian authorities with any foreign governments or organizations to introduce censorship and surveillance on the Internet; analysis of such cooperation, if any, over the past 10 years; monitoring purchases of such technologies by authorities;

protection of journalists who have been prosecuted, including revocation of their accreditation;

providing civil society in Belarus with services to repel cyberattacks;

providing resources and educational materials on digital literacy, bypassing Internet censorship, digital security, investigative and analytical journalism for independent journalists;

improving skills to counter misinformation for civil society and media representatives;

The bill also provides for an extension of sanctions (a ban on entry into the United States) for:

Russian citizens who are involved in the suppression of post-election protests;

CEC members and individuals who helped the CEC rig the election results;

members of the KGB, Interior Ministry, riot police, who are involved in the persecution of oppositionists, journalists, and peaceful protesters;

employees of the Ministry of Information responsible for the persecution of independent media, including revocation of accreditation and Internet blocking;

officials of the Union State, regardless of citizenship;

Russian citizens involved in media persecution and human rights violations, including Russian propagandists who took the place of Belarusians in state media.

The three House Committees (International Relations, Financial Services and Legal), the full House of Representatives, the Senate and the U.S. President should approve the bill.