CHAIRMAN SMITH RESPONDS TO RELEASE OF TWO BELARUSIAN POLITICAL PRISONERS—CALLS FOR INCREASED EFFORTS TO SECURE THE RELEASE OF OTHERS
Washington, DC—Representative Chris Smith (NJ-04), Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, issued the following statement on the April 14 release from prison of former Belarusian presidential candidate Andrei Sannikau and his campaign manager Zmitser Bandarenka:
“The release of political prisoners Andrei Sannikau and Zmitser Bandarenka, following 16 months of incarceration, is a step in the right direction. The Government of Belarus must take the next step and immediately and unconditionally release all of the remaining political prisoners, including Mikalai Statkevich, Ales Bialiatski, Syarhei Kavalenka, Zmitser Dashkevich, Pavel Seviarynets, Mikalai Autukhovich, Eduard Lobau, Mikalai Dziadok and others, and guarantee the full restoration of their civil and political rights. The Belarus Democracy and Human Rights Act of 2011, which the President signed into law on January 4, calls on the International Ice Hockey Federation to suspend its plan to hold the 2014 International World Ice Hockey championship in Minsk until the Government of Belarus releases all political prisoners. That condition has not yet been fulfilled. While I welcome the release of Sannikau and Bandarenka, and share the happiness of their families and friends, we must redouble our efforts to secure the release of the remaining political prisoners.”
The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, is an independent agency of the Federal Government charged with monitoring compliance with the Helsinki Accords and advancing comprehensive security through promotion of human rights, democracy, and economic, environmental and military cooperation in 56 countries. The Commission consists of nine members from the U.S. Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce.