US Senate passes 2020 Belarus Democracy Act

On December 21, the US Senate approved the Belarus Democracy, Human Rights, and Sovereignty Act of 2020.

The bill gives additional authority to the President of the United States to impose new sanctions on the back of the stealing of the 2020 presidential election in Belarus and the brutal crackdown on post-election protests.

The Democracy Act is expected to restore personal economic and visa sanctions against an expanded group of Belarusian officials and a number of Russian citizens. The document will come into force only after it is signed by the President.

How will US elections affect Belarus?

In accordance with the bill, sanctions may be slapped on:

  • Russian citizens involved in the suppression of protests;
  • Central Election Commission members and individuals who assisted the CEC in rigging the election;
  • officers of the State Security Committee (KGB), Interior Ministry, OMON riot police;
  • employees of the Information Ministry who are responsible for harassing independent media

The Act also:

  • recognises the Coordinating Council as a legitimate body for participation in the dialogue on the peaceful transfer of power and does not recognise Alyaksandr Lukashenka as a legitimately elected leader of Belarus;
  • calls for the release of all political prisoners;
  • supports the collection of evidence and the investigation of human rights violations in Belarus;
  • assails Belarus’ inclusion into the Union State with Russia;
  • stands by the side of independent media, especially those using the Belarusian language;
  • supports the development and use of technology to bypass censorship;
  • backs countering Belarusian authorities’ attempts to block access to the Internet.

The bill was presented by US Congressman Chris Smith, who was one of the authors of Belarus Democracy Acts in 2004, 2006, 2011.

100 days of Belarusian protest

For over four months, the protests have been underway in the country; the major demands of Belarusians are Lukashenka’s resignation; holding a free and fair election; releasing political prisoners; putting an end to police violence as well as bringing to justice those involved in battering and torturing peaceful demonstrators.

Since August 9, more than 30,000 people have been detained across the country. Many of them were beaten, some were raped. There are at least seven death cases that are linked to the post-election protests. Hundreds of persons, including Belsat TV journalists Katsyaryna Andreyeva and Darya Chultsova, are parties to criminal proceedings, the number of political prisoners exceeded 150. Several thousand detainees filed complaints against police officers’ illegal actions to the Investigative Committee. However, not a single criminal case has been opened over the citizens’ appeals.