EU to extend freeze on sanctions against Belarusian officials

2009 2009-11-17T19:44:02+0200 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en

The European Union is expected to prolong the freeze on its sanctions against Alyaksandr Lukashenka and other Belarusian officials next week but not lift the threat entirely due to a lack of progress on political reform, reported Reuters with reference to a draft statement seen on Thursday, BelaPAN said. 

In October 2008, the European Union suspended for six months its travel ban against Alyaksandr Lukashenka and 35 other Belarusian officials. The suspension of the sanctions was extended for another nine months this past March to encourage the Belarusian government to carry out "further concrete measures towards democracy and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms." 

The draft statement due to be approved by the EU foreign ministers during their meeting in Brussels next Monday and Tuesday said that the suspension would be extended until October 2010 to encourage further changes, according to the report. 

The draft statement said that the recent release of political prisoners had opened up the possibility for further cooperation between the EU and Belarus. 

But the threat of sanctions will not be scrapped entirely because of Belarus` lack of progress on democracy, with the EU wanting to see electoral reform and movement on human rights, including an end to crackdowns on political activity and the media. 

The EU also wants the Belarusian government to impose a moratorium on the use of the death penalty and move rapidly toward its abolition, Reuters said. 

In October 2008, the 27-nation bloc suspended its travel sanctions against a total of 36 Belarusian officials and left them in place for five, including Lidziya Yarmoshyna, head of the central election commission, and four persons suspected of involvement in the 1999-2000 disappearances of Mr. Lukashenka’s opponents. The four are: former Interior Minister Uladzimir Navumaw, former Prosecutor General Viktar Sheyman, former Interior Minister Yury Sivakow, and Dzmitry Pawlichenka, a former commander of an Interior Troops unit. The latter three were implicated by the so-called Pourgourides Report in the alleged abduction and murder of opposition politicians Yury Zakharanka and Viktar Hanchar, businessman Anatol Krasowski and journalist Dzmitry Zavadski. 

The EU imposed the entry ban on Mr. Lukashenka and many other Belarusian officials following the March 2006 presidential election over alleged violations of international election standards and crackdowns on post-election protests.