WASHINGTON, D.C. – “A repeatedly-delayed presidential election and a subsequent runoff election failed to end longstanding political and civil unrest in that West African nation,” said Chairman Chris Smith (NJ-04) at a hearing of the House Africa, Global Health and Human Rights Subcommittee today. “Despite the arrest of sitting President Laurent Gbagbo this week, there remain obstacles to the return of peace and prosperity to Cote d’Ivoire.
“Cote d’Ivoire had been one of the region’s most stable governments and an African economic powerhouse,” Smith said. “In fact, even during the worst periods of civil war in this troubled country, Cote d’Ivoire remained one of America’s largest trading partners in Africa. Unfortunately, this nation has become a blight on its neighbors rather than the blessing it had been for so long. As many as a million Ivorians have been driven from their homes by the fighting.” Click here to read Chairman Smith’s statement.
The congressional hearing featured testimony on the crisis from the U.S. State Department. William Fitzgerald, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau on African Affairs, testified before Smith’s subcommittee. Click here to read Deputy Assistant Secretary Fitzgerald testimony. The resolution, H.Res. 85, offered by fellow New Jersey Congressman Don Payne (D-NJ), was approved in the form of a substitute amendment, and reported to full House Foreign Affairs Committee.
The resolution seeks to support the democratic hopes of the Ivoirian people and calls on the U.S. government to use diplomatic pressure and provide humanitarian support in response to the political crisis. It acknowledges that in November 2010, Alassane Ouattara won the presidential election, but the incumbent Laurent Gbagbo refused to peacefully transfer power to President Ouattara. The United Nations has verified nearly 300 deaths resulting from post-election violence, including extrajudicial and summary executions of Ivoirians—mostly civilian supporters of President Ouattara.
Statement of Chairman Ed Royce
Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade
Financial Hardball: Corralling Terrorists and Proliferators
April 6, 2011
Economic sanctions have long been a key diplomatic tool. In recent years, the United States has
increasingly relied upon “reputational” financial sanctions, particularly against North Korea and
Iran. These sanctions target financial institutions employed by rogue states for illicit
transactions. To preserve their reputation, and protect their business, other banks shun the
targeted institution, restricting the rogue's ability to finance proliferation or terrorist activities.
This model was effectively used in 2005 with Banco Delta Asia, hitting North Korea. Once
BDA was identified as complicit in North Korea’s money laundering and WMD activities, banks
throughout the region shunned BDA and other North Korean transactions, effectively shutting
the regime out of the international financial system. As Dr. David Asher, a key architect of this
policy, will testify, this was a “financial shot heard around the world.”
Key to this action was Section 311 of the Patriot Act, which allows the Treasury Department to
designate a particular financial entity as a “primary money laundering concern,” barring it from
the U.S. financial system. One witness, Juan Zarate, pioneered the use of this sanction against
“bad banks” during his tenure at Treasury.
After being used against North Korea and BDA, this “unprecedented power” took a five-year
vacation. That is, until earlier this year, when the Beirut-based Lebanese Canadian Bank was
sanctioned. Treasury found that as much as $200 million per month in drug money was
laundered through this bank to the benefit of Hezbollah: financing weapons, logistics and
The “market-based financial isolation” that was used against North Korea set the stage for
Treasury’s campaign against Iran. Beginning in 2006, senior U.S. officials visited some fivedozen
banks, seeking to persuade them to reconsider their business with Iranian financial
institutions. Dubious transactions by Iranian banks, like $50 million transmitted by Iran’s Bank
Saderat through a London subsidiary to Hezbollah, were spotlighted. In this “whisper
campaign,” Treasury officials revealed the high cost foreign institutions could bear if found to be
facilitating illicit Iranian transactions.
This has caused economic hassle and even pain for the Iranian regime, but it has yet to alter its
nuclear weapons drive.
But neither has our financial pressure been turned to the max. Treasury has yet to designate a
single bank under Section 311 of the Patriot Act for Iran-related transactions. Nor has Treasury
imposed any sanctions against Iran’s central bank, which has reportedly assisted Iranian banks to
sidestep U.S. financial pressure.
Nor have new financial sanctions that were included in the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions,
Accountability, and Divestment Act been fully implemented. Nine months after the bill was
signed into law, Treasury has yet to issue regulations to bar foreign banks doing business with
designated Iranian entities from the U.S. financial market. If fully implemented, this would
transform Treasury’s whispers into a loud bark and bite.
Successive Administrations have shown little interest in sanctioning firms investing in Iran’s
energy sector. Last week’s sanctioning of an already sanctioned and largely insignificant
Belarusian energy firm was an embarrassing Obama Administration gesture.
Our witnesses today suggest that financial sanctions, if made a cornerstone in a coordinated
campaign, could tip the playing field. In the case of North Korea, one suggests they could have
proven “decisive,” had naive diplomats not demanded they be dismantled.
Lastly, I should note that our hearing comes as the Treasury Department is in transition.
Undersecretary Stuart Levey left his post just days ago. He was innovative and aggressive. The
Administration insists his departure won’t affect policy. This hearing should help Members hold
them to that.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Lukashenka dictatorship that rules Belarus should be held accountable for its crimes against the Belarusian people in their struggle for freedom, human rights, and democracy, Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), a leading voice on human rights in Congress and chairman of the House Human Rights Subcommittee, said today at a joint hearing with the Europe and Eurasia Subcommittee, chaired by Chairman Dan Burton (IN-05).
Smith called the recent December elections a “mockery” reminiscent of the late Soviet era, with crackdowns on the democratic political opposition and independent media, accompanied by unfair trials, harsh sentences, harassment and intimidation by the KGB, interrogations, raids, and other forms of pressure on families of the opposition.
“Alexander Lukashenka continues to turn a deaf ear to all criticism of his government,” said Smith, who is also chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission. “After the election, Lukashenka said that Belarus will have no more ‘mindless democracy,’ clearly manifesting his sneering contempt for the Belarusian people, many of whose lives he has ruined – and whose country he stole 16 years ago, transforming it into a grotesque anomaly, Europe’s ‘last dictatorship.’” Click here for Congressman Smith’s statement before the hearing.
During a Helsinki Commission visit to Minsk in June 2009, Smith pressed Lukashenka directly on his dismal human rights record and denial of democratic freedoms. Smith had previously authored the Belarus Democracy Acts of 2004 and of 2006, both signed into law. Recently, he introduced the Belarus Democracy and Human Rights Act of 2011, H.R. 515.
Witnesses at the hearing included: Dan Russell, the Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Europe and European Affairs; David Kramer, Executive Director of Freedom House, and former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, and ex-Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, and; Matthew Rojansky, the deputy director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment and former Executive Director of the Partnership for a Secure America.
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Representative Mike Kelly (PA-03) voted today in support of the Government Shutdown Prevention Act (H.R. 1255), legislation that would force the Senate to either pass its own budget for the remainder of fiscal year 2011 or accept the one passed by the House in February, preventing a government shutdown that could take place once the current continuing resolution runs out on April 8.
“It was bad enough that the previous Congress failed to pass a 2011 budget, but now, six months into the fiscal year, the current Senate can't come up with a budget either,” said Rep. Kelly. “This is a serious breech of responsibility that has understandably infuriated the American people. The House has done our part and then some. It's time for the Senate to step up to the plate or remain on the bench. Either way, we've got to move forward.”
Today’s measure was the fourth attempt by the House to prevent a government shutdown. In addition to passing H.R. 1 in February, which would have funded the government through fiscal year 2011 while saving taxpayers $61.5 billion dollars, the House also passed two short-term budgets that have cut $10 billion in spending and have given the Senate five additional weeks to come up with a budget.
Under the Government Shutdown Prevention Act passed today, if the Senate has not passed a measure providing for appropriations to fund the government for the remainder of FY 2011 by April 6, then the provisions of the House budget would be enacted into law and government operations would be automatically funded under H.R. 1 for the remainder of fiscal year 2011.
The legislation also states that if the government shuts down for more than 24 hours, Members of Congress and the President will not be paid for those days.