Europe's last dictator not forgotten

WASHINGTON, April 7 (UPI) -- Washington hasn't forgotten that Belarus, "Europe's last dictatorship," needs to embrace democratic reform, U.S. Sen. John Kerry said.

Alexander Lukashenko extended his tenure as president in Belarus in what was widely considered a fraudulent December election. Authorities arrested six presidential candidates during the campaign and put another 600 anti-government protesters behind bars.

Kerry, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said upon introducing legislation that reauthorizes the Belarus Democracy Act of 2004 that political repression in Belarus wasn't easily forgotten.

"Belarusians have the same right to self-government and free expression as their neighbors," he said in a statement. "Europe's last dictatorship should not be allow to stand unchallenged."

The 2004 act authorizes U.S. assistance for certain groups advocating democracy and human rights in Belarus.

U.S. House of Representatives leaders this week rebuked the Lukashenko administration for its political policies.

Human Rights Watch in March said it was time the United Nations step in to investigate alleged political repression by the Belarusian government.

Lukashenko, who took office in 1994, is the first and only president of an independent Belarus.


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