House Foreign Affairs Committee Approves the Belarus Democracy and Human Rights Act of 2011

                         Police in Belarus attacking protesters after the December 2010 election

Bill, H.R. 515, was approved by the Human Rights Subcommittee Wednesday and the full Foreign Affairs Committee today. The "Belarus Democracy and Human rights Act of 2011" with amendments introduced by Rep. Chris Smiths (R-NJ). Mr. Smith’s opening statements denounced the fraudulent December 2010 elections where Dictator Aleksandr Lukashenka rejected the will of the people and viciously cracked down on protesters and media who took to the streets in peaceful protests against electoral fraud. Belarus is the last dictatorship in the Europe having been led by Lukashenka for the past seven-teen years. H.R. 515 takes earlier legislation, the "Belarus Democracy Act 2044 and the "Belarus Democracy Reauthorization Act of 2006" as a starting point. The amendments will require the State Department to monitor arm sales and internet censorship, monitor arm sales and the personal assets of the dictator, senior leadership their families and others involved in anti-democratic actions. Mr. Smith also included provisions to bar non-humanitarian loans to Belarus from independent financial institutions in an attempt to choke off funding of Lukashenka’s' government

Chairman Ilena Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) expressed her condolences for the victims of Monday's Minsk subway bombing, where twelve people were killed. Wednesday three suspects were arrested and confessed to being involved Mondays' bombing. Several members of Congress denounced Lukashenka for the many abuses committed against his own people in the past few months since the election. Lukashenka was accused of manipulating the December 19th 2010 election to ensure that the he would not be seriously challenged, beating detainees and protesters, and torturing activists and journalists arrested in the crackdown since the election. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) told the committee "the core principle of democracy is to end tyranny that has been the function of our country for two-hundred years."

In the past decade actions by the United States government echoed some of the accounts described in the hearing today on the "Belarus Democracy and Human Rights Act 2011." Several members of Congress cried foul, pointing the finger at Lukashenka while many of these same members stood silent when issues of voter fraud were raised here in the States in the 2000 and 2004 election ions. Abuses of Guantanamo detainees have also been ignored by several members of Congress. While it is honorable to acknowledged the abuses of Lukashenka and his leadership. It is an unfortunate anecdote that these same lawmakers have failed to defend these democratic principles for some of their own constituents.