WASHINGTON, DC – In response to the Alexander Lukashenka regime’s violent crackdown and political repression following the fraudulent August 9, 2020 election, Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Chairman Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), Ranking Member Michael McCaul (R-TX) Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (R-OH), Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), and Congressman William Keating (D-MA) introduced the Belarus Democracy, Human Rights, and Sovereignty Act of 2020. The Act would provide for the promotion of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Belarus as well as support the aspirations of the Belarusian people to preserve the independence and sovereignty of their country in the face of the threat posed by Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
“The world is recognizing what the struggling—but courageous—people of Belarus have been saying loud and clear since August 9 with their massive rallies: the recent election was fraudulent, and has no credibility with anyone save Lukashenka, and perhaps Russia,” said Rep. Smith, who noted H.R. 8438 updates and reauthorizes his previous legislation enacted in 2004, 2006 and 2011 to advance and promote democracy and human rights in Belarus. “This bipartisan bill renews sanctions on Belarusian Government officials who have obstructed the country’s democratic transition. It gives much-needed support to the besieged Belarusian media, and to the IT sector. Some of the unlikely heroes of this struggle are Belarusian hackers, who have cracked Lukashenko’s firewall, and have been able to broadcast truthful accounts to the Belarusian people of the news of the day. This bill also commissions several much-needed fact-finding efforts to get a better picture of the situation on the ground. The Belarusian people are fighting to preserve the independence and sovereignty of their country in the face of the threat posed by Vladimir Putin’s Russia.”
Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Engel said, “Lukashenka has demonstrated time and time again that he is a brutal dictator interested only in the preservation of his own interests and maintaining his grip on power – no matter the cost. We continue to stand with the peaceful protestors in Belarus, who have turned out in historic numbers demanding a freer, more democratic nation and a free and fair election. With this legislation, the United States Congress once again sends the bipartisan message that the United States will not tolerate Lukashenka’s brutality and illegitimate claims to power. The will of the Belarusian people must be respected, and I am proud to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to send that message to Lukashenka, the people of Belarus, and the Russian dictator next door.”
“We stand with the historic numbers of peaceful Belarusian protesters that continue to flood the streets to demand a more democratic country. Their voices must be heard and the Belarusian authorities using violence, arbitrary detentions and repression in an attempt to stifle their calls to chart their own future must be held accountable,” said House Foreign Affairs Committee Republican Leader Rep. McCaul. “This Act sends an unmistakable message to the Belarusian dictator and his supporters in the Kremlin that the United States will neither accept Lukashenka’s illegitimate rule nor allow Belarus’ sovereignty to be handed over to Russia against the will of the Belarusian people.”
Rep. Kaptur said, “As a longtime supporter of liberty in Central and Eastern Europe, I am pleased to co-lead this bill to demonstrate resolute bipartisan support for the Belarusian people against the tyranny of the Lukashenko regime. This measure will provide for robust sanctions against human rights offenders, and hopefully pave a path toward new elections and peaceful transitions of power. I stand ready to work with my colleagues to boost U.S. assistance for Belarusian civil society through upcoming spending bills.
Rep. Kinzinger said, “I’m proud to cosponsor this bipartisan legislation that formally condemns the fraudulent August election in Belarus and shows strong U.S. support for the sovereignty of the Belarusian people. We stand with the freedom-loving people around the world, especially those who are oppressed. Our legislation calls for the crackdown on peaceful demonstrators to end, for all those who have been unjustly detained to be released, and for a transparent and fair electoral process. With foreign assistance parameters and coordination with our European partners, our efforts here can help ensure the voices of the Belarusian people will be heard.”
Rep. Keating said, “I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this legislation to affirm our continued support for Belarusians working tirelessly towards democracy,” said Congressman Bill Keating, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, Energy, and the Environment. “Their asks are simple. Belarusians want a government that is accountable to the people, that adheres to the rule of law, that respects their human rights, and that conducts itself in accordance with not just European, but global standards and norms. We must pass this legislation to show the Belarusian people that we hear their calls for democracy and justice, and that America stands beside them.”
Belarus Democracy, Human Rights, and Sovereignty Act of 2020:
- Reauthorizes the 2004 Belarus Democracy Act for the third time following the fraudulent August 9, 2020 election and the Lukashenka regime’s violent crackdown on the peaceful protests;
- States that it is U.S. policy to
- reject the fraudulent August 9, 2020 Belarusian presidential election;
- refuse to recognize Lukashenka as the legitimately elected leader of Belarus;
- call for a new presidential election in Belarus that complies with OSCE standards;
- continue to call for the immediate release of all political prisoners in Belarus, including U.S. citizen Vitali Shkliarov and leading opposition figure Maryia Kalesnikava;
- refuse to recognize any incorporation of Belarus into a so-called “Union State” that is under the control of Russia;
- Expands the list of Belarusian authorities who may be subject to U.S. sanctions beyond the country’s senior leadership and security services to include those directly responsible for the crackdown on independent media;
- Further strengthens the current human rights sanctions regime on Belarus to include Russian individuals complicit in the political repression in Belarus and the crackdown on independent media;
- Authorizes U.S. assistance to promote democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Belarus and calls on the Administration to reevaluate and increase U.S. assistance to Belarus in light of the current political crisis;
- Calls on the President to provide the United States Agency for Global Media with a surge capacity for its programs and activities in Belarus;
- Requires a U.S. strategy to promote expanded broadcasting, internet freedom and access to information in Belarus;
- Calls on the United States to continue to coordinate with the European Union, its member states, the United Kingdom and Canada to support the democratic aspirations of the Belarusian people and to deter Russia’s attempts to undermine Belarus’ sovereignty and independence; and
- Requires the Secretary of State, in coordination with the Director of National Intelligence, to submit two reports to Congress on
- Russia’s efforts to undermine Belarus’ sovereignty and independence; and
- the assets owned by Lukashenka.
It is anticipated that the Belarus Democracy, Human Rights, and Sovereignty Act of 2020 will be marked up by the House Foreign Affairs Committee tomorrow, which would then allow the bill to move to the floor for a possible vote by the full House of Representatives.