Human rights activists and foreign policy experts press Secretary Clinton on democracy in Belarus
January 14, 2011
Dear Madame Secretary:
As individuals and groups concerned with freedom in the world, we are writing to urge you to step up action against the regime of Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenka in response to both what the OSCE has described as badly-flawed elections and the brutal crackdown he authorized against his own people in its aftermath. We appreciate your taking the time to meet with brave Belarusian activists last week and the joint statement you did with the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton last month after the election violence. Solidarity with the EU against Europe’s last dictator and in support of Belarusian civil society is critical.
At the present moment, dozens of presidential challengers and ordinary citizens, whose only crime was to peacefully protest against a rigged election and an authoritarian leader, remain in jail. Moreover, the regime has launched an all-out assault on independent civil society and media throughout the country, including arrests, interrogations, searches, and seizures of technical equipment. In fact, the current situation is significantly worse than that in 2006 when the U.S. and EU together imposed serious sanctions against the Lukashenka regime. Thus, it is important for the U.S. and EU to act together once again in standing up to Lukashenka’s repression.
We urge you to:
- Enact a wider visa ban against all Belarusian state officials and their families (including families is the best way to have an impact). Include Foreign Minister Martynov on this list
- Target sanctions against the assets controlled by the regime, including those in the spheres of oil, gas, electricity and weapons. In concert with this action, we urge you to discourage the international financial institutions from extending any lines of credit to Belarus.
- Refuse any negotiations with the Belarusian regime until all political prisoners from the post-electoral crackdown are released.
- Resume direct material and technical support to opposition forces in Belarus so they might re-group without delay, denying Lukashenka the absolute climate of fear he has effectively imposed on his citizens.
- Encourage the EU to open its borders to Belarusian citizens by reducing or waiving visa fees as well as waiving U.S. visa fees for Belarusians.
- Support students who have faced expulsion as a result of participating in the protests.
- Continue to speak out against the crackdown and detentions shining an international spotlight on the regime’s abuses and ensuring the detainees know of your moral support.
Madame Secretary, we understand the concerns some might have about the impact of such measures on the Belarusian people, but at the same time, we can assure you based on proven experience that such targeted measures work. In 2008, they succeeded in freeing all political prisoners in Belarus. And reimposition of sanctions has wide support among Belarusian civil society and opposition activists. Moreover, based on the outrageous actions Lukashenka has authorized in recent weeks, we believe there is no alternative.
Your leadership on this issue would send a powerful message about linking rhetoric with action to European foreign ministers when they convene on January 31st.
Bruce P. Jackson
The Foreign Policy Initiative seeks to promote an active U.S. foreign policy committed to robust support for democratic allies, human rights, a strong American military equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and strengthening America’s global economic competitiveness.