Belarusian Organization Calls on the EU to Expand Sanctions Against Belarus During Upcoming Review

LONDON, Oct. 13, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- "Belarusians in Exile", a non-profit organization uniting Belarusians around the world, wrote an open letter to Justas Paleckis, member of the European Parliament and special rapporteur of the European Parliament Delegation for relations with Belarus, urging him to initiate a resolution by European Parliament to expand sanctions against the Belarusian regime.

The letter says: "On 12 September the European Parliament had adopted your report regarding the situation in Belarus. The report indicates the deplorable situation with human rights and political freedoms in this country.

"It specifically mentions that since 1994 no free and fair elections in Belarus have been conducted under electoral legislation in line with international standards; that principle of separation of powers is not duly implemented and the arbitrary use of power has become common practice; that there are still political prisoners in Belarus, including human rights defenders, independent media and defense lawyers; that capital executions are performed without a fair trial, execution dates are unknown to the families of the convicted and the public, the body is not given for burial to the relatives, and the place of burial is not communicated.

"Among other issues the adopted text urges to 'carry out an in-depth evaluation of the current EU restrictive measures against Belarusian officials and entities with the view, if needed, to improve their effectiveness and adapt their scope, nature and validity reacting to developments in the country and in its relations with the EU.'

"Belarusians in Exile fully supports this statement and urges EU to implement tougher sanctions against Belarus.

"There is no doubt that EU sanctions, combined with the threat that they could be expanded, has in the past lead to the release of political prisoners. In 2012, several political prisoners including Dmitry Bondarenko and Andrey Sannikov, were released, even though they were not rehabilitated and were forced to ask for pardon as a condition of their release. Further more, there are still political prisoners in Belarus, including human rights defender and Sakharov Prize nominee Ales Bialatski. Political prisoners in Belarus often become subject to inhuman treatment and torture.

"However it is clear that the current restrictive measures have not pushed the Lukashenko regime to make meaningful reforms. The limited success of restrictive measures is wholly due to a failure of political will to impose meaningful sanctions, which can and should be corrected.

"Sanctions are effective when they reduce or threaten to reduce meaningful revenues coming from the EU to the Lukashenko regime. At the present time none of the most profitable Belarusian exporters are subject to sanctions. Trade between Belarus and the EU has grown while sanctions have been in effect. In 2012 Belarus had an $8 Billion surplus in trade with the EU. Existing sanctions against Belarusian companies are therefore largely symbolic and do little to promote positive change in Belarus. However it does not have to be this way.

"The companies that are majority state owned and which bring the Lukashenko regime the most revenue are:

Belshina (100% state owned)

Naftan (99.8% state owned)

Belaruskali (100% state owned)

The Belarusian Potash Company (50% to 100% state owned depending on what happens in the dispute with Uralkali)

"Recently, Belarusian human rights organizations made public legal reports by Macfarlanes regarding possible sanctions of abovementioned companies. The reports are available at http://www.belarusiansinexile.org/legal_opnions_eu/ . All of these companies can be sanctioned under existing EU law; it is only a question of political will.

"We urge the EU to expand restrictive measures against the Lukashenko regime by including these companies in the sanctions list during the upcoming review and to initiate a resolution by European Parliament supporting the implementation of such measures by European Council."

CONTACT: Dima Shehigelsky Belarusians in Exile +1 (646) 583-2525 ds@belorussians.org www.belorussians.orgSource: Belarusians in Exile