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Human Rights In Belarus

President George W. Bush recently met with two women whose husbands disappeared in Belarus. Irina Krasovskaya and Svyatlana Zavadskaya are co-founders of a Belarusian organization called “We Remember”, which seeks to bring to justice those responsible for unexplained political disappearances.

Anatoly Krasovsky, a prominent pro-democracy businessman, vanished in 1999. Dmitry Zavadsky was a well-known television journalist. He went missing in 2000 following his reports that Belarusian authorities may have aided Chechen separatists. The Belarusian government has failed to investigate these disappearances seriously. But several international investigations have concluded that the men were murdered by Belarusian authorities.

With a presidential election scheduled for March 19th, the Belarusian government continues it repressive tactics, says White House spokesman Scott McClellan:

"It [the meeting with Mrs. Krasovksaya and Mrs. Zavadskaya] highlights our concern about the Belarusian government's conduct leading up to the election, harassment of civil society and the political opposition, and failure to investigate seriously the cases of the disappeared."

In another attack on civil society, the government of Alexander Lukashenko detained members of a pro-democracy group called Partnership. Authorities also raided the non-governmental organization's offices and seized documents and equipment.

Other N-G-Os have been targeted by the Lukashenko government. In a politically motivated move, the Belarus Supreme Economic Court recently reinstated harsh and unwarranted penalties against the Belarus Helsinki Committee -- an organization that has played an important role in promoting freedom and democracy in Belarus. These actions are part of a surge in harassment designed to intimidate opponents of the regime, civic activists, and voters and create a climate of fear in the run up to the election.

People in Belarus face an uphill battle to secure a democratic future for their country. But "the United States," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan, "stands with the people of Belarus in their effort to chart their own future."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.