DEMOCRACY IN BELARUS Congressman John SHIMKUS speaks to the US House of Representatives on March 15, 2007
From the March 16th Congressional Record:
Mr. SHIMKUS: Madam Speaker, democracy and the rule of law is something that we have cherished in this country for over 200 years. And it is part of our responsibility to not only strengthen and preserve that in our country, but support those countries who are fighting for democracy and freedom.
Many of you may be thinking that this talk is about Iraq and Afghanistan. It is not. It is addressing the last dictatorship in Europe, which I am fortunate to have a relationship with based upon a niche I have developed in working with former captive nations and Eastern European countries.
The country of Belarus has been in a dictatorship for many years. And I am here today to call attention to the arrest two nights ago of an opposition leader, Vintsuk Vyachorka, by the KGB police. Yes, the Belarusian police still go by the KGB, under the direction of the Belarusian dictator, Alexander Lukashenka.
Vintsuk Vyachorka was pulled from his home in the middle of the night, only to be brought up on non-existent charges that will likely land him in jail for at least 25 days.
Madam Speaker, it is my belief, along with many others who have been monitoring the unraveling civil liberties of Belarus , that this arrest is merely the beginning of a series of arrests that the dictator, Mr. Lukashenka, is going to try to use to intimidate opposition leaders into abandoning a large protest on March 25 in honor of Belarusian freedom.
I say that we need to stand together today and say that we will not sit by and watch idly as Mr. Lukashenka uses his power to intimidate and scare the Belarusian people.
I am holding up a wrist bracelet, and many kids have been wearing these now in the United States for a couple of years. It is very simple. In Belarus , you can get arrested for wearing this. In fact, young people are pulled off the streets, intimidated and harassed. So today I bring this on the floor to show my solidarity with the Belarusian people, for those who are seeking freedom, a return to democracy and the rule of law.
I will not be silent, and I know the world community will not be silent until the last dictatorship in Europe changes its ways and becomes a democracy and enters the community of free, democratic countries in Europe.