BRAMA, Oct 1, 2004, 1:00 am ET|
Ukrainian Americans urged to support H.R. 5102: Ukraine Democracy and Fair Elections Act of 2004
For a long time now, we, Ukrainian Americans, have been helplessly watching some senior Ukrainian government officials and those influential oligarchs in Ukraine who, because of their close ties to the Ukrainian government, operate outside the rule of law with impunity. Presently these individuals are doing everything in their power to prevent fair and democratic presidential elections on October 31. We have also seen the U.S. government, in spite of our protests, punish all of the people of Ukraine for the misdeeds of these individuals.
Now for the first time since the rebirth of an independent Ukraine, Ukrainian Americans have an excellent opportunity to assist the U.S. Government in enacting an effective policy toward Ukraine which will punish the guilty individuals in Ukraine for their political and economic misdeeds affecting Ukraine's path toward full democracy and rule of law, but will prevent any U.S. sanctions against Ukraine as a whole. How can we achieve this? By contacting our Congressmen and Congresswomen to sign on as co-sponsors of a bill introduced in the House of Representatives by California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher on September 15, 2004. The purpose of this Bill, H.R. 5102, entitled the "Ukraine Democracy and Fair Elections Act of 2004," is "to encourage the promotion of democracy, free, fair, and transparent elections, and respect for human rights and the rule of law in Ukraine." In addition, the bill expresses the support of the U.S. Congress "for individuals and organizations in Ukraine that promote the integration of Ukraine into the European community of democracies."
The Rohrabacher bill proposes that any senior government official of Ukraine and any other individual "determined by the Secretary of State to be personally involved in the formulation or execution of policies or activities that are in contradiction of internationally recognized human rights and free, fair, and transparent election standards," be denied an entry visa into the United States and have any of his/her assets that may be in the United States seized. These sanctions are to be also imposed upon the spouse, minor child, or agent of any such government official and individual. The oligarchs of Ukraine feel they can break the law with impunity, and so far they often have gotten away with it, but H.R. 5102 provides real leverage to prevent the members of this "elite" from visiting the U.S. to spend their ill-gotten wealth on American luxuries (which ordinary Ukrainians cannot afford) and to prevent their children from coming here to study in American universities.
There is a good chance that through our joint efforts this bill may become law, if not this year, in the new Congress next year. Or if we generate enough momentum, something might be done by Executive action. Congressman Rohrabacher modeled this bill on the successful Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001, signed into law on December 21, 2001. Also, on September 27, 2004, the U.S. government imposed similar visa restrictions on Belarus.
Even though the presidential election in Ukraine is only a month away, we believe that the threat of the passage of such a bill in the U.S. may make "the usual suspects" in Ukraine think twice about their actions. This proposal is not just another theoretical approach, but a bill "with teeth." PLEASE ACT NOW! Call, write or email your Representative today to support H.R. 5102. Ukraine needs our help!
Ihor Gawdiak, President
Ukrainian American Coordinating Council