30 Sep 2020
The U.K. and Canada imposed sanctions on Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko and senior figures in his government, a sign of widening discontent in the West over ongoing repression of peaceful protests against his purported victory in a disputed election.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab accused Mr. Lukashenko and his allies of multiple human-rights violations in detaining and allegedly torturing protesters following the Aug. 9 poll, which Mr. Lukashenko’s opponents and Western governments say was rigged in his favor to extend his more than a quarter-century in power.
Mr. Lukashenko, his son and national security advisor Viktor, and six other senior officials were banned from entering the U.K. and British-based financial institutions were ordered to freeze any of their assets they may hold. Canada issued travel bans and imposed asset freezes on 11 individuals, including Mr. Lukashenko and his son.
“We don’t accept the results of this rigged election. We will hold those responsible for the thuggery deployed against the Belarusian people to account and we will stand up for our values of democracy and human rights,” Mr. Raab said in a statement Tuesday.
Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs François-Philippe Champagne said: “Canada will not stand by silently as the Government of Belarus continues to commit systematic human rights violations and shows no indication of being genuinely committed to finding a negotiated solution with opposition groups.”
The move by Britain and Canada marks an escalation of punitive action by Western powers against Mr. Lukashenko using so-called Magnitsky sanctions, a set of measures designed to fight corruption and gross human-rights abuses. They were named after Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Moscow jail in 2009 after making allegations of fraud against Russian officials.
The U.S. and European Union are also considering new penalties against Mr. Lukashenko and his regime. Human-rights groups, political analysts and opposition activists say that during Mr. Lukashenko’s decades in charge, he has given security forces free rein to use arbitrary detentions, beatings and torture against those viewed as a threat to his power.
Almost 7,000 people were detained for protesting in the days immediately following the Aug. 9-13 vote, according to data from Belarus’ Interior Ministry, though nearly all were subsequently released.
The detentions have continued as protests against Mr. Lukashenko have flowed into their seventh week, often attracting more than 100,000 participants on Sundays.
Mr. Lukashenko’s office and Belarus’s Interior Ministry didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the sanctions targeting the Belarusian leader and others. Neither Mr. Lukashenko’s office nor Belarus’s Interior Ministry have responded to several requests for comment about the treatment of detainees and the strong-arm tactics of law-enforcement officers. The ministry has previously apologized for how riot police treated protesters on the streets.
Mr. Lukashenko has been subject to U.S. sanctions since 2006, which have had limited success. The blacklisting banned his entry into the U.S. and froze any assets he had within U.S. territory. Several companies were also blacklisted because they were owned by Mr. Lukashenko.
By Jason Douglas, The Wall Street Journal, 29 September 2020
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