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Belarus Harasses N-G-Os


The following is an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government:

With the victory of democratic forces in Ukraine, the repressive government of Belarus is even more isolated. But so far, Belarusian President Aleksander Lukashenko has not eased his iron grip. In fact, he appears to be going even further to stamp out fundamental human rights and eliminate all elements of civil society and democracy.

The Lukashenko government has announced that non-governmental organizations, or N-G-Os, and pro-democracy parties must find offices in stand-alone buildings or in buildings that provide them with their own separate entrances. But the government controls real estate in Belarus (either directly or indirectly) and usually refuses to lease office space to N-G-Os or democratic political parties. That is why most of these groups currently have their offices in apartments. And even if the N-G-Os and independent parties were to find acceptable office space, they would still face the virtually impossible task of obtaining legal registration at a new address.

The latest developments in Belarus are not going unnoticed. Stephan Minikes is U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. He has called on the Lukashenko government to “desist from taking further repressive action against independent civil society.”

And in testimony before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, U.S. Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice cited Belarus as one of several "outposts of tyranny":

“To be sure, in our world there remain outposts of tyranny – and America stands with oppressed people on every continent – in Cuba, and Burma, and North Korea and Iran, and Belarus, and Zimbabwe. The world should apply what Natan Sharansky calls the ‘town square test’: if a person cannot walk into the middle of the town square and express his or her views without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or physical harm, then that person is living in a fear society, not a free society. We cannot rest until every person living in a ‘fear society’ has finally won their freedom.”

In his inaugural address, President George W. Bush said it is in America’s interest to advance the cause of freedom. That means that the U.S. will support the development and growth of democratic movements and institutions around the world.

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