Congress Presses Rights

Article excerpt

Byline: James Morrison, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Congress presses rights

Congress is urging President Bush to raise human rights issues in Belarus, Poland and Russia when he travels to Warsaw and Moscow this week.

The congressional Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe expressed concerns about property rights in Poland, the conflict in Russia's Chechnya province, religious freedom in Russia and widespread human rights violations in Belarus.

In a letter to Mr. Bush, the commission said Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski has failed to keep a promise he made to Congress last year concerning the restitution of property confiscated from Poles by Nazis and communists.

Mr. Kwasniewski promised that Poland would draft a law to deal with the property issue early this year, but nothing has been done, the commission said.

"More than five decades after the end of World War II and 14 years since the end of communism in Poland, the survivors of totalitarianism still await a small measure of justice for the theft of their property," the letter said.

It urged Mr. Bush to raise "the continued serious violations of international humanitarian law and basic human rights" in Chechnya when he meets Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russia insists it is fighting Islamic terrorism in its war against Chechen separatists.

"While we recognize that some terrorist elements continue to operate in Chechnya, as demonstrated by recent suicide bombings, Russia's legitimate struggle against terrorism must not be a pretext for assaults on the civilian population or the indiscriminate use of force," the letter said.

It also asked Mr. Bush to urge Mr. Putin to stop denying or revoking the visas of missionaries from "select minority faiths," chiefly Roman Catholics and Protestants.

"Knowing the importance you place on religious freedom, we urge you to raise this matter with President Putin," the commission said.

"Finally, we remain deeply concerned about the poor situations with respect to human rights, democracy and rule of law in the Republic of Belarus under the regime of Europe's remaining dictator, Alexander Lukashenko," the commission added. …