Now Is the Time For EU to Impose Economic Sanctions Against Lukashenka | Freedom House

Now Is the Time For EU to Impose Economic Sanctions Against Lukashenka

Washington

Freedom House urges the European Union to adopt economic sanctions against Belarus strongman Aleksander Lukashenka when EU foreign ministers meet on Monday.  The deteriorating human rights situation in Belarus demands strong and urgent action by the EU and United States beyond the visa ban and asset freeze imposed on January 31. 
 
Belarus KGB security service brutally suppressed peaceful demonstrators protesting Lukashenka’s fraudulent re-election last December 19 arresting some 700, including seven of nine presidential challengers.  Arrests and harassment of opposition figures, civil society activists, and journalists have continued unabated, and “show trials” are now underway.  There are even suspicions that Lukashenka and his security services played a role in the April 11 bombing of the Minsk metro that killed 14 people and injured 200.  Meanwhile, Belarus’s economy is in a freefall after Lukashenka raised salaries for public officials ahead of last December’s presidential election in order to buy support for his reelection, dangerously boosting inflation in the process.   
 
“Lukashenka is on the thinnest ice of his political life, and Europe and the United States should move quickly to ratchet up the pressure against him,” said David J. Kramer, executive director of Freedom House.  “Sanctions against state-owned enterprises worked when the U.S. targeted Belneftekhim, the largest Belarusian state-owned enterprise, in November 2007, and they are likely to work now in freeing the political prisoners.  Visa bans and asset freezes against individuals are not sufficient.”    
 
Within the past week, leading opposition leader Andrei Sannikau, arrested and brutally attacked by Belarus KGB agents during the December 19 presidential election, was sentenced to five years in prison, the harshest sentence doled out to Lukashenka’s opponents to date.  Sannikau’s wife, Irina Khalyp, who also was detained last December, received a suspended sentence of two years.  Lending a sense of urgency to the situation, supporters of Sannikau and other opposition candidates face stiff sentences as well and continue to languish in inhumane conditions in Belarusian jails.  The European Parliament overwhelmingly endorsed a resolution May 12 calling for wider sanctions against Lukashenka. 
 
“I sincerely hope EU foreign ministers heed their call Monday and sanction not only Belneftekhim but other large exporting enterprises such as Belarus Potash Company and Beltekheksport, which sells arms to such regimes as Syria, Venezuela, and Iran,” Kramer said.  “Now is the time for the EU and U.S. together to act decisively.  Delay will only lead to further suffering for the people of Belarus.”
 
Belarus is ranked Not Free in Freedom in the World 2011, Freedom House's survey of political rights and civil liberties, and Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2011. It has been ranked by Freedom House as one of the world’s worst human rights abusers since 2004.
 
For more information on Belarus, visit:
 
 
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