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US congressman wants to ban visas for certain Ukrainian officials

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July 17, 2012, 8:58 a.m. |

U.S. Rep Chris Smith (R-New Jersey) wants to deny US visas "to Ukrainian officials involved in serious human rights abuses, anti-democratic actions, or corruption that undermines or injures democratic institutions in Ukraine, including officials responsible for and participating in the selective prosecution and persecution of political opponents
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Chairman Smith introduces measure calling on Ukrainian authorities to release political opposition leaders and hold free and fair elections Calls for visa bans on human rights violators

 WASHINGTON–Responding to the selective prosecution of opposition political leaders, including former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, by the Ukrainian government, Rep. Chris Smith, a Republican from New Jersey, today introduced a resolution promoting human rights and democracy in that country. The resolution demands that the Ukrainian government cease selective prosecutions, free Tymoshenko and other officials of the former government currently in prison, and act to ensure a democratic, fair
and transparent election process in the run-up to the Oct. 28 parliamentary elections. 

“Under President Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine has seen an alarming decline in its democratic development,” said Rep. Smith, Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission. “This resolution outlines measures the Ukrainian government must take, consistent with its OSCE obligations, to reverse the backsliding. Congress has a longstanding record of supporting the Ukrainian people in building an independent, democratic Ukraine based on the rule of law and respect for human rights. Americans are profoundly interested in Ukraine’s independence and future democratic evolution.”

With Ukraine’s impending leadership of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe – the country will be Chair-in-Office for 2013 – the resolution urges the Ukrainian government to take immediate measures to reverse the current anti-democratic course and display exemplary conduct, especially in human rights and fundamental freedoms, democracy and the rule of law. To underscore the seriousness of concerns about Ukraine’s democratic regression, the resolution calls for denying U.S. visas to Ukrainian officials involved in serious human rights abuses, anti-democratic actions, such as
electoral fraud, or corruption, including officials involved in the selective prosecution and persecution of political opponents.

On May 17, Chairman Smith chaired a Helsinki Commission hearing addressing the upcoming elections and imprisonment of opposition leaders.

The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, is an independent agency of the Federal Government charged with monitoring compliance with the Helsinki
Accords and advancing comprehensive security through promotion of human rights, democracy, and economic, environmental and military cooperation in 56 countries. The Commission consists of nine members from the U.S. Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce.

HRES 730 IH

112th CONGRESS

2d Session

H. RES. 730

Urging the Government of Ukraine to ensure free and fair parliamentary
elections on October 28, 2012, by adhering to democratic standards,
establishing a transparent electoral process and releasing opposition
leaders sentenced on politically motivated grounds.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

July 13, 2012

Mr. SMITH of New Jersey submitted the following resolution; which was
referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and in addition to the
Committee on the Judiciary, for a period to be subsequently determined
by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as
fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned

________________________________

RESOLUTION

Urging the Government of Ukraine to ensure free and fair parliamentary
elections on October 28, 2012, by adhering to democratic standards,
establishing a transparent electoral process and releasing opposition
leaders sentenced on politically motivated grounds.

Whereas Ukraine's independence and future democratic evolution is of
vital importance to the Euro-Atlantic community;

Whereas, since the restoration of Ukraine's independence 21 years ago,
the United States and Ukraine have maintained a strong relationship,
as evidenced by the United States-Ukraine Charter on Strategic
Partnership and Ukraine has played a vital, active, and constructive
role in enhancing global security;

Whereas Ukraine stands at a critical juncture in its development to a
more fully democratic country, and the parliamentary elections on
October 28, 2012, will play a highly significant role in demonstrating
the seriousness of the Ukrainian authorities' commitment to democracy
and respect for human rights and the rule of law;

Whereas, since Viktor Yanukovych became President of Ukraine in
February 2010, Ukraine has seen serious setbacks to its democratic
development, including the concentration of power in the hands of the
president and his Party of Regions;

Whereas the Yanukovych administration has engaged in the abusive
practice of selective justice, targeting leading opposition political
figures for prosecution;

Whereas the most stark manifestation of Ukraine's democratic
backsliding has been the politically motivated prosecution and
imprisonment of former Prime Minister and opposition leader Yulia
Tymoshenko, former Interior Minister and opposition leader Yuri
Lutsenko, and former acting Defense Minister Valery Ivashchenko;

Whereas Ms. Tymoshenko and other imprisoned senior former government
officials have been denied access to proper medical care;

Whereas, since Ms. Tymoshenko's imprisonment, the Prosecutor General
has reopened additional highly questionable, politically motivated
cases against her, some of which were previously closed and reported
to be sealed under a 10-year statute of limitations;

Whereas the continued imprisonment and prohibition from participation
in the October parliamentary elections of Ms. Tymoshenko and Mr.
Lutsenko makes it impossible for the international community to assess
these elections as having fully met international democratic
standards;

Whereas according to the Department of State's 2011 Country Report on
Human Rights Practices, serious and salient human rights problems in
Ukraine include the Government of Ukraine's measures to limit freedom
of peaceful assembly, increased government pressure on independent
media outlets and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and pervasive
corruption in all branches of government, all of which could have a
detrimental impact on the upcoming election process;

Whereas the Freedom in the World Indexes for 2011 and 2012 prepared by
Freedom House have downgraded Ukraine's rating from `Free' to a
`Partly Free' country under conditions created by the current
government;

Whereas Ukraine's past 4 national elections, 2 presidential and 2
parliamentary, received positive assessments from the Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)-led international
observation missions;

Whereas the October 2010 nationwide local elections, in contrast, fell
short of democratic standards, according to credible domestic and
international observers;

Whereas the Government of Ukraine can restore some measure of
credibility by impartially administering the elections, allowing the
campaign environment in which candidates, campaign activists, and
observers can operate free from harassment and intimidation, ensuring
the transparent and equitable formation of territorial and precinct
election commissions, and respecting and adhering to the legal
framework for the election;

Whereas Ukraine will assume the leadership of the OSCE as the
Chair-in-Office for 2013 and can expect closer scrutiny of its OSCE
commitments; and

Whereas the Government of Ukraine can demonstrate its commitment to
democracy by conducting a free, fair, and transparent parliamentary
election process, as the quality of this process will determine the
course of the future relations between the United States and Ukraine:
Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives--

(1)   demands that President Yanukovych and the Government of Ukraine cease selective prosecutions, free Mrs. Tymoshenko and the other senior officials of the previous government currently in detention,
and restore their full political and civil rights;

(2)   urges the Government of Ukraine to ensure full respect of the legal and human rights of all prisoners sentenced on politically motivated grounds, including the right to medical care, in line with
international standards;

(3)   calls for denying United States visas to Ukrainian officials involved in serious human rights abuses, anti-democratic actions, or corruption that undermines or injures democratic institutions in Ukraine, including officials responsible for and participating in the selective prosecution and persecution of political opponents;

(4)   urges the Government of Ukraine to meet its commitments on free and fair elections, as delineated in the 1990 Copenhagen Document of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), with respect to the entire campaign process, including formation of election commissions, nomination of candidates, campaign, voting, count, tabulation, and processing of election challenges and complaints;

(5) urges the Ukrainian authorities to ensure--

(A) the full transparency of election procedures before, during, and
after the 2012 parliamentary elections;

(B) free access for domestic and international election observers;

(C) balanced and fair representation on all election commissions;

(D) unimpeded access by all parties and candidates to print, radio,
television, and Internet media on a non-discriminatory basis; and

(E) the freedom of candidates, members of opposition parties, and
independent media organizations from intimidation or harassment by
government officials at all levels;

(6)   urges that the courts of Ukraine address all election-related
complaints objectively and in timely fashion;

(7)   encourages the Government of Ukraine to take immediate measures
to reverse the current anti-democratic course and display exemplary
conduct as the incoming 2013 OSCE Chair-in-Office by adhering to its
OSCE commitments, especially in the areas of human rights and
fundamental freedoms, democracy, and the rule of law;

(8)   expresses its continuing strong support for the efforts of
Ukrainian citizens to establish democracy based on the rule of law and
respect for human rights; and

(9) reaffirms its ongoing support for Ukraine's independence,
sovereignty, and territorial integrity, and assumption of Ukraine's
rightful place as a full member of the international community of
democracies.

The Kyiv Post is hosting comments to foster lively debate. Criticism is fine, but stick to the issues. Comments that include profanity or personal attacks will be removed from the site. If you think that a posted comment violates these standards, please flag it and alert us. We will take steps to block violators.
Charles Spencer July 17, 2012, 11:44 a.m.    

The World is starting now to address the government of the Ukraine......it does not look good for them.....the PEOPLE of the UKRAINE need to address how and WHAT they want in their lives, either to JOIN the EU, or with Russia etc. With the EU.... you do get not only basic human rights, but much much more.... with he other choice you have...its to be slaves ....once again. With EU membership.... you can freely travel with in these countries, go to live there etc, or earn very good money in a EU country, and build a palace here in the Ukraine. You will see in real life, how here in the west we live...its infrastructure far superior to that offered by others. Your roads, schools, hospitals etc, will be brought up to western standards...it paid by the west...all for your country to act as a DEMOCRACY, with a fair Justice system, and RULE OF LAW. SORRY UKRAINE...you are quite primitive to that of the west.....but you must ask WHY your LEADERS will not change ......because the corruption at the top cannot happen as it does now for you, under EU laws.

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Frederick Sass July 17, 2012, 12:58 p.m.    

If the passing of Euro2012, one would think that Yanukovych would have acted more transparently, since he and his regime were being scrutinized closely by the rest of the world. But all is not as it would be expected. I feel that Yanukovych is so arrogant that he will continue his reign of corruption and political abuses, including jailing his official opposition, controlling the media (tax police invade TV station), pushing Russian language as official in Ukraine, etc. He just does not care what the rest of the world thinks of Ukraine, even though the USA in now proposing visa bans for some Ukrainian officials. It can't be much more embarrassing than that.

The world will notice the corruption, but Yanukovych will continue regardless.

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IvanovPetrovSidorov July 17, 2012, 1:20 p.m.    

I have a lot of respect for Yanukovich. A lot of people (armchair generals) underestimate him, yet he is making history and they don't.

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gary yellando July 17, 2012, 3:14 p.m.    

Ivanov !!! you are so correct...the west grossly underestimate Yanko.
he is a thug and brainless but money talk and thats all he has.....he will never want to join the EU pact as he will not continue his way of corruption and rape of the country...the C I S is better for him and will be a puppet to Russia.
The Ukraine people love Yanko....they voted for him and his party...long will he rein....

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elmer-елмер July 17, 2012, 5:09 p.m.    

"If men were angels, there would be no need for government"

But men are not angels, as the Party of Regions has proved.

And unless there is a system of checks and balances, what you get is --- Zookraine.

The Party of Regions has done everything to eliminate checks and balances in government.

The Constitutional Court is a good example. It never should have allowed the 1996 constitution, which was in place under Kuchma, to replace the one from 2004.

The 1996 constitution was replaced when it became evident that Yushchenko had won the presidency. The idea was that Kuchma had untrammeled power, and he and his buddies did not want Yushchenko to have the same power, for fear that Yushchenko would put Kuchma and Kivalov and others in jail.

So now we have - yanukovichism. It's getting worse than Kuchmism.

Most of the people in Ukraine feel that it doesn't really concern them.

But it does.

Noone will respect Ukraine so long as Ukrainians don't respect themselves enough to stand up for themselves, to demand good government.

So long as there is yanustalinism, instead of true democracy, Ukraine will be treated exactly like Pulter just did.

It will be treated like a province of Russia, with a thieving brainless governor, where "The Surgeon" and his biker pals in Crimea are more important, and where Victor Medvedchuk has a villa complete with a lavish musical fountain with multi-colored changing light displays.

All while Ukraine continues to lose population and live in poverty.

Well, except for yanustalin and his buddies, who have Mezhihirya and other lavish mansion estates.

seig heil
der fuhrer fascist Governor Yanustalin - serving at the whim and pleasure of Putler in the Russian province of Zookraine

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carl July 17, 2012, 6:01 p.m.    

Elmer, yushchenko agreed to replace 96 constitution.2004 constitution was not workable,witness yushchenko/tymoshenko infighting. Both orange and blue are better off 2004 constitution was replaced.
New Jersey-toxic waste dump. A visa ban for Smith,US congress does nothing but steal from american people. US Congress are imperialist warmongers and enforcers for capitalist oligarchs.

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elmer-елмер July 17, 2012, 7:08 p.m.    

carl, you make no sense whatsoever.

If the 2004 constitution was indeed "not workable," as you say, then why go back to something worse???????

The issue is not whether orange or blues are better off.

The issue is whether the people are better off.

The issue is to have a system of government that does not allow one person, or a few person, to run roughshod over the country.

The issue is whether there is government which:

1) provides necessary services
2) has limited power
3) prohibits corruption
4) is accountable to the people
5) is open and transparent

In other words, the exact opposite of what Zookraine has.

Your comment is based on the sovok notions that there is a "professional elite class of people" who are the only ones entitled to be in government, and that people are subservient to the government.

Hence, Yanusvoloch steals Mezhihirya, Boyko steals $200 million on a government driling rig deal, Kolesnikov, through companies close to him, gets millions of dollars from Euro 2012 contracts, Medvedchuk has a villa with a lavish musical, multi-colored water fountain in Crimea, Lozinsky kills a 55-year old man because he thinks he is a "god of the manor," the Party of Regions does piano voting in Parliament under Rabid Dog Conductor Chechetov, and government officials drive Mercedes, Bentleys, Porsches and Rolls Royces - with which they kill people in the streets and on the sidewalks while driving drunk.

Naftohaz is state-owned. That would normally not be a problem if there was a government that had checks and balances.

But as it is, state-owned enterprises are corrupt in Zookraine, and the "clans" fight over them.

The idea of the 2004 constitution was to limit the power of the president.

Instead of impoving on that constitution, the sovok mafiosi simply went back to what was convenient for them, as sovok mafiosi, but not good for the people,

One more thing, carl - in a democracy, part of what makes it work, and part of what makes a country strong, is respect for the legitimate institutions of government, and finding a way to work together for the benefit of the people - not for the benefit of a few sovok mafiosi.

The pissing and shitting contest between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko was a disaster.

Now there is Governor Yanustalin., serving at the whim and pleasure of Putler.

Zookraine is never going to be a strong country, and it will continue to lose population, so long as sovok mafiosi vampires like Medvedchuk, Chechetov, Yanusvoloch, Yefremov, Pinchuk, Akhmetov, Kolomoisky, and all the other, are allowed to continue engorging themselves in their own personal fiefdom - Ukraine.

Your sovok rhetoric does nothing to help the situation in Zookraine.

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