Updated at 11:50,16-10-2017

Court in Luxembourg removes Belarusian TV host from EUs blacklist

By Tanya Korovenkova, BelaPAN

The Luxembourg-based General Court of the European Union has annulled the entry of Belarusian pro-government journalist Alyaksey Mikhalchanka in the European Unions list of persons subject to restrictive measures against Belarus.

The Council of the European Union infringed the rights of the defense of the journalist and made errors of assessment in the reasons relied on against him, the General Court says in a press release.
Mr. Mikhalchanka was blacklisted by the Council after the December 2010 presidential election, along with a number of other journalists working with state-run media outlets. The EU imposed an entry ban and an asset freeze against Mr. Mikhalchanka over his role in the governments crackdown on opponents as a state television journalist holding a senior and influential position.

In 2012, the Council prolonged its sanctions against Mr. Mikhalchanka, describing his show as an instrument of state propaganda on TV, which supports and justifies the repression of the democratic opposition and of civil society. The Council referred to Mr. Mikhalchanka as a journalist with an influential position.

On September 23, the General Court upheld Mr. Mikhalchankas application for annulment.

First, the General Court finds that the rights of the defense of Mr. Mikhalchanka were infringed at the time when the restrictive measures were maintained in 2012, the press release says. Since the grounds given in 2012 were worded differently from those given in 2011, the Council was required to inform Mr. Mikhalchanka of new evidence that it intended to use against him.

Secondly, the General Court says that the Council has not disclosed any evidence capable of demonstrating the influence, actual impact or responsibility that Mr. Mikhalchanka or, as the case may be, the television program he presented, could have had in the violations of international electoral standards and the repression of civil society and the democratic opposition.

By another judgment, the General Court rejected an annulment application by Vadzim Ipataw, deputy head of the central election commission. As a member of the central election commission, he bears shared responsibility for the violations of international electoral standards in the Presidential election on December 19, 2010, the General Court says. In that case, the Court finds, in essence, that the Council did not infringe the rights of the defense of Mr. Ipatau [Ipataw], that it gave sufficient reasons for the acts adopted against him and that it did not make any errors of assessment.
A total of 224 individuals, including Alyaksandr Lukashenka, are currently subject to travel bans and all of them plus 25 economic entities are subject to asset freezes within the EU.

The EU Council drew up the blacklist in January 2011, following a brutal police crackdown on a post-election protest in Minsk. The list was repeatedly extended and included as many as 243 Belarusian individuals and 32 business entities at one point.