Tuesday, December 12, 2006

At Work for Justice and Freedom: The Belarus Democracy Act Extended

One of the good things coming out of the last days of this Congress was that the Belarus Democracy Reauthorization Act of 2006 was passed, extending the Belarus Democracy Act of 2004 for at least another two years.

Said Rep. Chris Smith, the author of the bill, "As one who has worked for freedom in Belarus over many, many years, I remain deeply concerned that the Belarusian people continue to be subjected to the arbitrary and self-serving whims of a corrupt and antidemocratic regime headed by Alyaksandr Lukashenka."

The bill authorizes $27.5 million in funding for democracy-building activities in Belarus while also banning the U.S. government from providing financial assistance to Belarus, except for humanitarian aid, until Minsk conducts a thorough inquiry into the 1999-2000 disappearances of Lukashenka's opponents, releases political prisoners, drops charges against opposition figures, and ends the prosecution of independent media and pro-democracy organizations.