US condemns repressions against journalists in Belarus – sanctions remain

2010 2010-03-19T15:37:45+0200 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

The US sanctions on the Belarusian regime will remain in force while human rights are violated in Belarus.

Karen Stewart, a former US Ambassador to Belarus, now an aide to Assistant Secretary of State Michael H. Posner, told this in an interview to Radio Svaboda.

–In your opinion, when will an American ambassador be able to return to Minsk? What conditions should be fulfilled for ambassador to return?

–However sad it may sound, we don’t see any steps made by Belarus’ authorities to return a Belarusian ambassador to Washington or restore the number of staff in both embassies. Our conditions remain the same. We want to see progress in human rights area and democracy in Belarus. All our sanctions were caused by these things. It wasn’t we who choose such measures as recalling ambassadors for consultations or reducing embassy staff. We are ready to have a dialogue and return at any moment. But if Belarus relates this to the sanctions, I’d like to remind that the sanctions are connected with human rights.

–In 2008, after the Belarusian authorities had released political prisoners and included two independent newspapers in official distribution network, the European Union changed its approach towards Belarus and invited the country to take part in the Eastern Partnership programme. Why didn’t the US change its approach? Why are policies of Brussels and Washington in relation to Belarus so different?

–In real fact, we responded to the changes. When Kazulin was released and two newspapers were registered, we modified our sanctions, allowing two Belneftekhim’s subsidiaries to trade with the US. We found it a reasonable reaction at that moment. Than US Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Phillip Gordon visited Belarus to stress the fact that the new American administration was ready to restore relations if the other part demonstrated a proper reaction. In my view, both we and Europeans want to respond to positive steps made by Minsk. But the fact is that there’s no progress.

–Many people in Belarus defined the policy of Gorge Bush Administration towards the Belarusian regime as firm. Belarus will have presidential elections soon. A new wave of repressions against opponents of the authorities has started today. How would you forecast Barack Obama Administration policy towards Belarus during the forthcoming presidential elections? What will Washington take into account first?

–Our today’s policy regarding Belarus is marked by continuity. We remain concerned about restriction of freedom of speech and press in Belarus, about the recent events related to searches of independent journalists’ apartments. As I have already said, our sanctions on Belarus remain in force because we don’t see any progress and any reasons allowing to review or soft the sanctions. Our aim is to see free and fair elections in Belarus.