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Legal news from Thursday, December 22, 2011




Ukraine ex-PM Tymoshenko ends appeals to focus on ECHR
Julia Zebley on December 22, 2011 4:51 PM ET

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[JURIST] On Thursday, former Ukraine prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko [personal website; JURIST news archive] announced [press release] that she will discontinue all appeals [JURIST report] and that she will solely rely on the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] to intervene [ECHR case materials] in her conviction. Tymoshenko is under indefinite detention after being denied release [JURIST reports] last week. In her statement, Tymoshenko lambasted the Ukrainian judiciary, and stated that nothing will change while current Ukrainian president and long-time political rival Viktor Yanukovych [official website] is in charge.
This is not 1937. This is their second year in power, and they have pushed our country beyond the boundaries of our era, an era of basic humanity and decency. This is the age of cave dwellers in its worst forms. In this situation, I see no reason or necessity to continue to support the farce in the Ukrainian courts. I will not seek the truth in them, because it's not there. Let them play their games of crooked justice, if they want, demonstrating to the world their immorality and insidiousness. I believe the European Court of Human Rights will assess the absurdity and crime that the Ukrainian government calls court. At the same time I would like to note that despite all the torture and humiliation, they haven’t broken me and never will. I continue my fight, because even here behind bars, I feel freer than all the Yanukovychs behind the government fences.
Yanukovych said on Thursday that he is not opposed to Tymoshenko's release [Interfax report] under certain conditions. This is likely in reaction to the ECHR "fast tracking" [press release, PDF] Tymoshenko's case, which it announced earlier this week.

Tymoshenko's prosecution has been highly controversial [JURIST comment] and has drawn harsh criticism internationally. Last week, the European Commission [official website] expressed its concern [Kyiv Post report] regarding a lack of transparency of Ukrainian hearings in prison, and declared that such a process does not correspond to the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website]. In November, the Ukrainian Parliament voted against [agenda text] hearing amendments that may have freed [JURIST report] Tymoshenko by fining her rather than sentencing her for her criminal convictions. The EU has consistently condemned [JURIST report] the former prime minister's conviction as politically-motivated, and has indicated that the prosecution could harm Ukraine's bid for EU accession. Tymoshenko herself has also made efforts to demonstrate that the charges are motivated by her adversaries, but to no avail. In August, the Kiev Appeals Court refused an appeal of her detention for contempt charges for a lack of legal grounds to contest the arrest [JURIST reports]. Also, in June, Tymoshenko filed a complaint [JURIST report] with the ECHR alleging various violations of the European Convention of Human Rights [text, PDF] and arguing that her charges were politically engineered by Yanukovych. Yanukovych narrowly defeated Tymoshenko in the presidential election in March 2010, but Tymoshenko has claimed that widespread voter fraud contributed to the outcome.




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Federal judge blocks portions of South Carolina immigration law
Jaclyn Belczyk on December 22, 2011 3:23 PM ET

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[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the District of South Carolina [official website] on Thursday blocked [order, PDF] portions of South Carolina's controversial immigration law [SB 20]. The legislation requires police officers to check a suspect's immigration status during a lawful stop, seizure, detention or arrest if they believe the person may be in the country illegally and requires businesses to participate in the E-Verify [official website] system. It was challenged by a coalition of civil rights groups and the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [JURIST reports], which both argued that it is unconstitutional, invites racial profiling and interferes with federal law. Judge Richard Gergel blocked the provision that requires police to check immigration status, finding, "[t]his state-mandated scrutiny is without consideration of federal enforcement priorities and unquestionably vastly expands the persons targeted for immigration enforcement action. He also blocked the provision that outlaws harboring or transporting an illegal immigrant, finding a likelihood of irreparable harm. The law was set to take effect January 1.

Similar immigration laws are being challenged throughout the US. Last week Alabama and Georgia filed motions in the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] seeking to stay proceedings [JURIST report] on challenges to their immigration laws pending a ruling by the US Supreme Court [official website] in Arizona v. United States [docket]. The Supreme Court agreed [JURIST report] earlier this month to rule on a challenge to Arizona's controversial immigration law [SB 1070 materials], which criminalizes illegal immigration and requires police officers to question an individual's immigration status if the officer has a "reasonable suspicion" to believe an individual is in the country illegally. A challenge is also pending to an immigration law in Utah, and an Indiana law has been blocked [JURIST reports] by a federal judge.




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Federal judge dismisses lawsuit by former Guantanamo detainee
Jaclyn Belczyk on December 22, 2011 3:00 PM ET

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[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit [order, PDF; opinion, PDF] by a former Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee alleging that he was subjected to torture. Abdul Rahim Abdul Razak Al Ginco, a Syrian national who prefers the surname Janko, filed the lawsuit [JURIST report] in October 2010, claiming that US military officials repeatedly tortured him during his nearly seven-and-a-half years at Guantanamo. The suit named 26 current or former members of the military who were allegedly responsible for the tortuous acts, such as urinating on Janko, slapping him, threatening him with loss of fingernails, sleep deprivation, extreme cold and stress positions. Judge Richard Leon dismissed the suit Thursday, concluding:
War, by its very nature, victimizes many of those caught in its wake. Innocent civilians are invariably killed, and sometimes even mistakenly imprisoned. Our legal system was never designed to provide a remedy in our Courts for these inevitable tragedies, especially in a conflict like this where terrorists cunningly morph into their surroundings. Indeed, the Congress has specifically barred the Judicial Branch from reviewing "any aspect of the detention ... treatment ... or conditions of confinement of an alien who is or was detained by the United States and has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or is awaiting such determination." For this Court to circumvent such a clear directive from our Legislative Branch would be an utter disregard of the limitations of our judicial power.
Janko was released [JURIST report] from Guantanamo in June 2009 when Leon found that he could no longer be classified as an "enemy combatant" and that the government's argument against him defied common sense. Prior to being detained by the US military, Janko was imprisoned and tortured by al Qaeda [JURIST news archive] for 18 months over suspicions that he was an American spy.

Several other Guantanamo detainees have also filed lawsuits alleging torture. In July 2010, the UK High court allowed [JURIST report] a lawsuit filed by former Guantanamo Bay detainees alleging that the UK government was complicit in their torture to proceed. In April of last year, former Guantanamo detainee Adel Hassan Hamad [advocacy website] filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] in the US District Court for the Western District of Washington [official website] against the US government and more than a dozen government officials, claiming he was tortured.




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UN rights chief: Bahrain government should release protestors, rebuild trust
Rebecca DiLeonardo on December 22, 2011 2:58 PM ET

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[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] on Wednesday said that the Bahrain government should release prisoners detained during peaceful protests [news release] and focus on rebuilding national trust in the government. Pillay's statement follows a visit by a team of human rights officials to Bahrain last week at the invitation of the Bahrain government. Pillay expressed concern that members of her team observed that the people of Bahrain harbored a "deepening mistrust" of their government. She stated that the harsh crackdown on protesters combined with the continued impunity of officials suspected in the abuse and death of protesters has contributed greatly to the environment of mistrust. She called on the government to work to improve human rights conditions in order to rebuild national trust:
The Bahraini authorities need to urgently take confidence-building measures including unconditionally releasing those who were convicted in military tribunals or are still awaiting trial for merely exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of expression and assembly. Thousands of individuals have lost their jobs for participating in demonstrations, many students have had their education derailed—these serious violations of their economic and social rights must be immediately addressed. Those who have been unfairly dismissed should be reinstated to their original functions. ... My team has come back with the message that there is a profound lack of trust in the Government, and this mistrust has deepened as a result of the violent crackdown on protestors, destruction of mosques, the lack of fair trials and the lack of progress in providing redress for violations.
Pillay said it was important that the government take positive measures to regain the nation's trust, including consulting with the public. She urged that any protesters in the country remain nonviolent.

Last Month Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa [official website] ordered a special commission [JURIST report] to look into government recommendations made in a report by an independent Bahraini government commission. The report stated that Bahrain authorities used excessive force [JURIST report] and tortured detainees involved in the pro-democracy demonstrations earlier this year. Also last month the Bahrain government admitted the use of excessive force [JURIST report] in anticipation of the independent report. This was a reversal of the government's previous defense of its actions [CNN report]. In June Khalifa announced that an independent commission would investigate human rights violations [JURIST report] related to the country's pro-democracy protests. Earlier that month UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official websites] announced that Bahrain agreed to permit a UN commission [JURIST report] to investigate human rights violations related to protests. In April, human rights organizations including Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Doctors Without Borders (DWB) [advocacy websites] criticized Bahrain for rampant human rights abuses [JURIST report] related to anti-government protests.




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France lower house approves genocide denial ban
Jaclyn Belczyk on December 22, 2011 2:22 PM ET

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[JURIST] The French National Assembly [official website, in French] approved a draft law Thursday that would outlaw genocide denial, including the World War I-era killings of more than one million Armenians by Turkish soldiers. The measure would ban genocide denial generally, but it has sparked a diplomatic row with Turkey [Reuters report], which does not classify the killings as a genocide. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has strongly criticized the legislation, canceling all economic, political and military meetings with France and recalling its ambassador. France passed a law in 2001 recognizing the killings as genocide. The National Assembly approved legislation criminalizing denial of the Armenian genocide in 2006, but that measure was rejected by the Senate. The Senate must still approve the new legislation, which it will begin debating next year.

The Armenian genocide is also a contentious issue in US law and politics. Last month the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] decided to revisit a case [JURIST report] to determine whether a California law declaring Armenian genocide in Turkey conflicts with US foreign policy. In August 2010 a panel of the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit [official website] unanimously dismissed a lawsuit [JURIST report] challenging the exclusion of materials questioning the Armenian genocide from a school curriculum. In March 2010 the Obama administration announced its opposition to a resolution [JURIST report] labeling the World War I-era killings as genocide. The announcement came after the US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs passed the resolution [JURIST report] by a vote of 23-22. Erdogan condemned the resolution, and the Turkish government recalled its ambassador to the US.




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Puerto Rico to hold status referendum
Jaclyn Belczyk on December 22, 2011 1:40 PM ET

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[JURIST] Puerto Rican lawmakers on Wednesday approved legislation to hold a referendum on the island's status with the US. The House of Representatives [official website, in Spanish] passed the measure by a vote of 31-13 [press release, in Spanish], and a plebiscite will be held on November 6, 2012, coinciding with next year's general elections and the island's gubernatorial election. Puerto Ricans will be asked to choose whether they want to change the island's status. If yes, they will be asked whether they prefer statehood, independence or a "sovereign commonwealth" free from the Territorial Clause of the US Constitution. Puerto Rican Governor Luis Fortuno (R) [official website, in Spanish], a supporter of statehood, introduced the legislation [AP report] in October, and it has now been approved by both the Puerto Rican House and the Senate. The legislation now awaits Fortuno's signature. Any change in Puerto Rico's status would still need to be approved by the US Congress and president.

The US House of Representatives approved a bill to establish the referendum [JURIST report] in April 2010, but it was never approved by the Senate. In 2007, the UN Special Committee on Decolonization [official website] called on the US [press release] to quickly resolve the island's political status and release political prisoners. Puerto Ricans last voted on the status of the island in 1998 [results], with the "None of the Above" option winning 50.3 percent, statehood garnering 46.5 percent of the vote and independence only 2.5 percent. Referendums were also held in 1993 and 1967 [results], in which maintaining the current political status won over statehood, and independence placed at a distant third. Puerto Rico is an unincorporated US territory, and its current political status was adopted in 1952 after Congress approved the Puerto Rican Constitution [text]. The constitution established the island as a US commonwealth, causing the UN General Assembly to remove the island's categorization as a "non-self governing territory." Puerto Ricans have been US citizens since 1917, and the island has been under US control since 1898. JURIST Managing Editor Dwyer Arce recently argued that, as US citizens, Puerto Ricans should be entitled to vote [JURIST comment] in US presidential elections.




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Canada high court strikes down national securities regulator proposal
Jaclyn Belczyk on December 22, 2011 11:43 AM ET

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[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Canada [official website] on Thursday rejected a proposal [judgment; press release] to establish a single national securities regulatory body to replace the current system managed by individual provinces and territories. Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty [official website] introduced [JURIST report] the legislation [text; official backgrounder] in May 2010, and it was submitted to the Supreme Court for a ruling on its constitutionality. The court ruled unanimously that, "[t]he Securities Act as presently drafted is not valid under the general branch of the federal power to regulate trade and commerce under s. 91(2) of the Constitution Act, 1867 [text]." The court concluded:
To summarize, we accept that the economic importance and pervasive character of the securities market may, in principle, support federal intervention that is qualitatively different from what the provinces can do. However, as important as the preservation of capital markets and the maintenance of Canada’s financial stability are, they do not justify a wholesale takeover of the regulation of the securities industry which is the ultimate consequence of the proposed federal legislation. The need to prevent and respond to systemic risk may support federal legislation pertaining to the national problem raised by this phenomenon, but it does not alter the basic nature of securities regulation which, as shown, remains primarily focused on local concerns of protecting investors and ensuring the fairness of the markets through regulation of participants. Viewing the Act as a whole, as we must, these local concerns remain the main thrust of the legislation—its pith and substance.
Flaherty said the government would respect the court's decision and proceed in accordance with it [CTV report].

The legislation was based on the recommendations of a seven-member panel appointed by Flaherty, which concluded in January 2010 that the global financial crisis [FT backgrounder] increased the need for a national securities regulatory system. It came as a culmination of the efforts of successive Canadian governments to form a single securities regulator. When the legislation was proposed last year, Quebec Premier Jean Charest [official profile] sharply criticized it, saying that it would interfere with provincial jurisdiction and that his government would pursue a legal challenge in the Quebec Court of Appeal [officials website]. The governments of Alberta and Manitoba were also critical of the legislation.




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Ethiopia anti-terrorism law being used to suppress journalists: HRW
Jaclyn Belczyk on December 22, 2011 10:58 AM ET

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[JURIST] Ethiopia's anti-terrorism law is "fundamentally flawed and being used to repress legitimate reporting," Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] said [press release] Wednesday. HRW made the statement after two Swedish journalists were convicted [Bloomberg report] Wednesday of supporting terrorism under Ethiopia's Anti-Terrorism Proclamation of 2009 [text]. The journalists, who face up to 15 years in prison, were on a "journalistic mission," according to Sweden's prime minister. HRW deputy Africa director Rona Peligal said, "[t]he vague and broad anti-terrorism law was open to abuse and it is being abused." HRW said the trial was unfair and called on Ethiopia to immediately release the journalists and drop all charges. Amnesty International [advocacy website] also called for their release [press release].

Ethiopia's anti-terrorism law has faced ongoing criticism since it was passed [JURIST report] in 2009. In August, JURIST guest columnist and former executive director Abigail Salisbury argued that the government is using the law to suppress journalists and opposition groups in order to maintain its hold on power [JURIST op-ed]. In July, HRW called on the Ethiopian government to stop using the law to repress free speech [JURIST report].




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Rights group criticizes Kyrgyzstan justice system
Jennie Ryan on December 22, 2011 10:45 AM ET

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[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Thursday criticized [press release] the Kyrgyz Supreme Court for upholding a guilty verdict in a trial it claims was marred by allegations of torture, violence and threats. In its ruling on December 20, the Kyrgyz Supreme Court upheld a verdict against eight ethnic Uzbeks who were found guilty of killing a policeman and injuring several other officers during mass disturbances in the city of Bazar-Kurgan in June 2010 [Guardian backgrounder]. The eight Uzbek nationals were convicted in September 2010 [JURIST report] on charges including inciting ethnic hatred and complicity in murder. Seven of the defendants were sentenced to life and their sentences remain unchanged. The Kyrgyz Supreme Court reduced the 20-year sentence of the eighth defendant to 11 years. The defendants allege they were tortured while in custody and that their families were threatened. HRW criticized the ruling, arguing that the court should have sent the "case back for re-trial and instructed the prosecutorial authorities to investigate all allegations of torture, ill-treatment, and other violations of Kyrgyz and international law in this case."

The Kyrgyz judicial system has been criticized by rights groups, including HRW, related to the treatment of detainees following the violence of June 2010. In June 2011 HRW and Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] criticized [HRW report; AI report] Kyrgyzstan's lack of judicial progress, marking the one-year anniversary of the June 2010 ethnic violence that resulted in more than 300 deaths and 2,000 injuries. Both reports alleged [HRW press release] that investigations have been conducted through torture and that typically, only confessions given through torture have been recognized as evidence while other, legitimate evidence has been ignored. Earlier this year, the US Department of State (DOS) [official website] also criticized Kyrgyzstan [JURIST report] in its 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices [materials], stating Kyrgyzstan [materials] still faced significant rights issues and ethnic violence despite the overthrow of an authoritarian government and the passage of a new constitution [JURIST reports]. In November 2010 a court in Kyrgyzstan sentenced 19 ethnic Uzbeks [JURIST report] for their involvement in the June 2010 ethnic violence. In July of last year the Kyrgyz government announced that it had opened more than 1,000 criminal cases [JURIST report] stemming from the violence, and that 106 individuals had been detained, with 97 in custody.




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New York Times suing DOJ for information on targeted killings
Jennie Ryan on December 22, 2011 9:57 AM ET

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[JURIST] The New York Times (NYT) [media website] filed a lawsuit [text] against the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] on Tuesday alleging the government violated the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text] in refusing to release legal memoranda related to targeted killings of terror suspects. The suit relates to the death of the US-born radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaqi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] who was killed in a US drone strike [JURIST report] in Yemen in September. The strike that killed al-Awlaqi raised questions about the legality of the US ordering the targeted killing of American citizens. The lawsuit contends that the questions surrounding the legality of the US government's actions in al-Awlaqi's death have led "legal scholars, human rights activists, and current and former government officials ... [to call] for the government to disclose its legal analysis justifying the use of targeted lethal force, especially as it applies to American Citizens." The NYT states that it filed FOIA requests in 2010 but the DOJ refused to release any memoranda or even confirm existence of any such documents related to the legal analysis justifying the killing.

Some information related to the death of al-Awlaqi has already leaked to the media. In October an Obama administration legal memorandum from last year [JURIST report] found that the killing of US citizen and senior al Qaeda [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] leader al-Awlaqi would only be legal if it were not feasible to take al-Awlaqi alive. The secret document written by the DOJ justified the decision [NYT report] to kill al-Awlaqi despite an executive order banning assassinations and a federal law against murder. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] criticized the targeted killing as a violation of both US and international law. The US has increased drone strikes in Yemen to try and reduce al Qaeda's power in the region and minimize the chaos spilling over the border into Saudi Arabia. The strike that killed al-Awlaqi marks the US government's most successful attack against al Qaeda since the raid leading to the death of Osama bin Laden [JURIST report] in Pakistan last May.




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Bank of America to pay $335 million to settle discriminatory lending claims
Jaclyn Belczyk on December 22, 2011 9:20 AM ET

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[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] announced Wednesday that Bank of America (BOA) [corporate website] has agreed to pay a record $335 million [press release] to settle claims that its subsidiary, Countrywide Financial, discriminated against Hispanic and African-American home buyers. According to the DOJ complaint [text, PDF], Countrywide engaged in a pattern of discriminatory conduct, charging minority borrowers higher fees and interest rates and steering them into sub-prime mortgages based not on their creditworthiness, but rather on their race or national origin. The proposed settlement [text, PDF], filed in the US District Court for the Central District of California and subject to court approval, will provide compensation to more than 200,000 minority borrowers. It will also require Countrywide to implement policies to prevent such discrimination in the future. The discrimination allegedly occurred between 2004 and 2008, before BOA acquired Countrywide in 2008. A BOA spokesperson pledged a commitment to "fair and equal treatment of all our customers."

This is the latest in a series of legal problems for BOA. Earlier this month BOA agreed to pay $315 million [JURIST report] in a settlement of claims brought by investors alleging they were misled with respect to mortgage-backed investments. Last month a senior judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida [official website] gave final approval to a $410 million settlement [JURIST report] in a class action suit against BOA for overdraft fees that affected more than 13 million people. The settlement with BOA, which was reached in February, was given preliminary approval [JURIST reports] in May. In June, BOA agreed to pay $8.5 billion [JURIST report] to settle claims that it sold bad securities contributing to the housing market collapse.




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US lawmakers vote to sanction Belarus for protest crackdowns
Julia Zebley on December 22, 2011 7:31 AM ET

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[JURIST] The US House of Representatives on Tuesday passed the Belarus Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2011 [text, PDF], imposing new sanctions on Belarus [JURIST news archive] in reaction [press release] to what the bill's author calls "the worst political crackdown in Europe in well over a decade." If signed, the law would label President Alexander Lukashenko [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] a dictator and state that he "established himself in power by orchestrating an illegal and unconstitutional referendum that enabled him to impose a new constitution, abolishing the duly elected parliament." The new sanctions require the US to investigate Belarus' arms deals and its possible censorship of the Internet, as well as denying visas to a list of Belarusian officials. The bill also calls on the International Ice Hockey Federation [official website] to change the location of the 2014 International World Ice Hockey Championship, currently scheduled in Minsk, which the US believes will "legitimize" the Belarusian government. Forcing Belarus to respect peaceful protesters is one of the primary goals [floor remarks text, PDF] of the new US sanctions:
HR 515 states a US Government policy of strong support for the Belarusan people in their struggle against Lukashenko to live in a free, independent country where their human rights are respected. The bill encourages those struggling despite overwhelming pressures from an antidemocratic regime. It calls for a full accounting of the 1999 to 2000 disappearances. ... It calls for a release of all of the political prisoners. We can't say that enough. We can't say it one day and forget it the next. We need to redouble our efforts, beginning today, to promote a free Belarus where all can live in peace, freedom and prosperity without that knock in the middle of the night by the KGB.
On Thursday, three Ukrainian activists from the group Femen [official Facebook profile] were released [RFE/RL report] from Belarus custody after protesting Lukashenko's regime. The women allege that they were kidnapped by Belarus KGB [RFE/RL report], stripped and beaten. US Sanctions will not be lifted until there is an unconditional release of all political prisoners and new elections are held. The bill is expected to be signed by US President Barack Obama [official website], who last sanctioned Belarus in June [UPI report].

Belarus has been under increasing criticism for what many see as a rapid decline of human rights in the Eastern European nation. Last month, a Belarus court convicted [JURIST report] human rights activist Ales Bialiatski, the president of Viasana and vice-president of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) [advocacy websites], of tax evasion, sentencing him to a four-and-a-half-year prison term amid international criticism. In September, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] suggested a need for UN intervention in Belarus [JURIST report] and demanded the nation free non-violent political prisoners. Her report also cited Belarus as the only European nation to still enforce the death penalty. Ambassador Mikhail Khvostov said his country disagrees with the UN on what constitutes a peaceful demonstration and that Belarus is committed to human rights. The month before, members of the Belarus Parliament introduced a bill that would ban so-called "silent protests" [JURIST report], including those involving large groups of people basically doing nothing. Nonetheless, silent protests continue [RT report], largely in defiance of Lukashenko. Earlier this year, Belarus' Minsk City Court delivered suspended sentences for two former presidential candidates, Uladzimer Nyaklyaeu and Vital Rymasheuski, convicted of organizing protests following the re-election [JURIST reports] of Lukashenko. The two-year suspended sentences were handed down days after former presidential candidate Andrey Sannikau [Free Belarus Now profile] was sentenced to five years [JURIST report]. Hundreds of activists were arrested after protesting Lukashenko's 2006 presidential win, including opposition candidate Alexander Milinkevich [JURIST reports]. While Lukashenko has since sought to improve his country's ties with western nations, the US State Department has historically criticized Belarus' human rights record [JURIST report]. The UN General Assembly Third Committee and the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights [JURIST reports] have similarly denounced Belarus for human rights abuses.




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