Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Testimony :: Statement of Honorable Steny H. Hoyer
Ranking member - Helisinki Commission

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Statement of Representative Steny H. Hoyer

Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Hearing on

"Belarus - Stalled at the Crossroads"

March 9, 2000




MR. CHAIRMAN, I BELIEVE IT IS IMPORTANT THAT THE COMMISSION, THE CONGRESS AND
OUR GOVERNMENT CONTINUE TO SHINE THE LIGHT ON WHAT IS GOING ON IN BELARUS. I
THANK YOU FOR HOLDING THIS TIMELY HEARING TO DO JUST THAT, AND I WELCOME OUR
MANY DISTINGUISHED WITNESSES WHO WILL SHARE THEIR EXPERIENCES IN FIGHTING
FOR DEMOCRATIC REFORM IN BELARUS. SEVERAL WEEKS AGO, THE STATE DEPARTMENT
RELEASED ITS ANNUAL HUMAN RIGHTS COUNTRY REPORT ON BELARUS WHICH
HIGHLIGHTS NUMEROUS VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND UNDERSCORES THE
BELARUSIAN GOVERNMENT'S LACK OF COMPLIANCE WITH ITS OSCE COMMITMENTS.
AMONG OTHER DEVELOPMENTS IN THE DETERIORATING POLITICAL AND HUMAN RIGHTS
SITUATION IN BELARUS ARE THE CONTINUING SHOW TRIAL OF FORMER PRIME MINISTER
MIKHAIL CHYGIR (Che-GEER), THE CONTINUED DETENTION AND BRUTAL BEATING BY
PRISON GUARDS IN DECEMBER OF POLITICAL DETAINEE ANDREI KLYMOV (KLEE-mof), A
DEPUTY OF THE 13TH SUPREME SOVIET, AND THE STILL UNRESOLVED DISAPPEARANCES OF
OPPOSITION LEADERS VIKTOR GONCHAR (GON-char) AND YURI ZAKHARENKA
(Zah-CAR-ehn-kah).


SINCE THE BEGINNING OF THIS YEAR, I HAVE HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO MEET WITH ALL
OF OUR BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADERS PRESENT HERE TODAY - MR. SHARETSKIY
(Sha-RETS-key), MR. SHUSHKEVYCH (Shoosh-KAY-vich) AND MR. LEBEDKO. ALL OF THEM ARE
AT THE FOREFRONT OF THE STRUGGLE TO RESTORE DEMOCRACY TO BELARUS. THE 13TH
SUPREME SOVIET, WHICH THEY REPRESENT, WAS ILLEGALLY DISBANDED BY BELARUSIAN
STRONGMAN LUKASHENKO. IN THE OSCE PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY, WE HAVE
WORKED TO KEEP FAITH WITH THE SUPREME SOVIET, THE LEGITIMATE LEGISLATURE OF
THE COUNTRY, AND HAVE INSISTED ON SUPPORTING THEM AND NOT LUKASHENKO'S
POCKET PARLIAMENT, THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY. GIVING THE OPPOSITION CREDIBILITY IS
A CRITICAL THING FOR US TO BE DOING IN THE WEST.

I MET YESTERDAY WITH ADRIAN SEVERIN, MY COLLEAGUE FROM THE OSCE
PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY, WHO WAS INVOLVED IN TALKS AMONG THE BELARUSIAN
GOVERNMENT AND OPPOSITION, WITH THE INVOLVEMENT OF THE SO-CALLED TROIKA
CONSISTING OF THE OSCE PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY, THE PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY
OF THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE AND EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT. SEVEN MONTHS OF ON-AGAIN
OFF-AGAIN TALKS BETWEEN THE REGIME AND THE OPPOSITION HAVE FAILED TO BEAR
FRUIT, THANKS TO THE INTRANSIGENCE OF THE AUTHORITIES. GENUINE DIALOGUE WITH
DEMOCRATIC FORCES IS ESSENTIAL IF BELARUS IS TO MOVE BEYOND THE CURRENT
PERIOD OF STAGNATION. ACCESS TO STATE MEDIA BY THE OPPOSITION WILL BE CRUCIAL
HERE. AND VERY IMPORTANTLY, IN ORDER TO GET BEYOND THE CONSTITUTIONAL
IMPASSE, FREE AND DEMOCRATIC PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS SHOULD BE HELD THIS
YEAR CONSISTENT WITH RELEVANT OSCE STANDARDS AND NORMS.

MR. CHAIRMAN, IT IS IMPORTANT THAT WE SEND A MESSAGE - LOUD AND CLEAR - TO THE
DICTATOR IN MINSK THAT HIS GOVERNMENT'S CONTINUED ABUSE OF HUMAN RIGHTS
AND VIOLATION OF OSCE COMMITMENTS DEVASTATES THE PEOPLE OF BELARUS AND
PROHIBITS HIS COUNTRY FROM TAKING ITS RIGHTFUL PLACE IN A FREE, PROSPEROUS AND
DEMOCRATIC EUROPE. ULTIMATELY, HE WILL NOT PREVAIL.

THANK YOU, MR. CHAIRMAN