On December 6, 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited Vilnius, Lithuania, where she participated in the OSCE ministerial and met with Lithuanian officials as well as Belarusian and other civil society representatives from across the OSCE region. In remarks at the OSCE First Plenary Session, Secretary Clinton addressed the continuing importance of human rights -- not simply as a moral imperative, but as an essential component of international security and stability. Secretary Clinton said:
"...That is especially important and timely in a year in which ordinary citizens -- across the Middle East and beyond -- have shown that dignity, freedom, and opportunity are aspirations for all people. Their power to change the course of history demonstrates, once again, the rightness of the comprehensive security concept that is at the heart of the OSCE: lasting peace and stability depend just as much on meeting our citizens' legitimate aspirations as they do on military security.
"As we reaffirmed last year at the Astana Summit, our commitment to this human dimension of security is -- and should be -- at the core of everything we do together. And when we put commitment into practice, more people will live in dignity, prosperity, and security, from Vancouver to Vladivostok, Minsk to Tashkent, Cairo to Kabul."
While addressing the OSCE Ministerial, Secretary Clinton spoke about the persecution of human rights defenders in Belarus. At the Tolerance Center In Vilnius, Secretary Clinton held a Belarus civil society roundtable discussion, during which she said:
"First, we recognize that this has been a brutally difficult year for the people of Belarus. We know that every day there is a new arrest or a new restrictive law or further harassment against civil society and the media.
"We continue to demand the unconditional release of all political prisoners. By our count, there are more than 50 individuals still in prison or under restrictive release, and I want to assure you that the United States will continue working for their freedom.
"Second, we will continue, along with our partners in the European Union and other democracies, to take actions against the Lukashenko regime, including sanctions and travel bans. Until the government takes concrete steps to improve human rights and the conditions for democracy, they will not have improved relations with the United States."
In Vilnius, Secretary Clinton also met with other civil society representatives, with whom she discussed a broad range of human rights issues, Internet freedom, and elections in Russia.
You can follow Secretary Clinton's travel to Germany, Lithuania, Switzerland, Belgium, and the Netherlands December 4-8 here on www.state.gov.