Updated at 11:30,08-12-2016

EU broadens criteria for sanctions against Belarusian individuals, entities

The Council of the European Union has broadened the criteria for imposing sanctions on Belarusian individuals and entities in response to human rights abuse and the persecution of the governments political opponents, BelaPAN said.

The Council adopted a regulation to this effect on February 10. "Those amendments broaden the criteria for imposing admission restrictions and on asset freezes. Accordingly, such sanctions can be applied to persons responsible for serious violations of human rights or the repression of civil society and democratic opposition, and to persons and entities benefitting from or supporting the Lukashenka regime", the Councils press office said.

The EU foreign ministers may impose travel and asset freeze sanctions on more Belarusian individuals and entities at a meeting on February 27. There are unconfirmed reports that as many as 135 more Belarusians may be added to the EUs blacklist.

On January 31, 2011, the EU Council imposed asset freezes and travel bans on 156 Belarusian government officials and other individuals for their role in "the violations of international electoral standards" in the December 14-19, 2010 presidential election and a post-election crackdown on civil society and pro-democratic supporters. The Council blacklisted 19 more Belarusians in March, 13 in May, four in June and 16 in October, placing on the list mostly judges and prosecutors involved in the prosecution of post-election protesters. In December, it added the judge and the prosecutor in the trial of prominent human rights defender Ales Byalyatski to the list.

The list currently includes 201 Belarusians.

Earlier this month, the Brussels-based Office for a Democratic Belarus, more precisely its head, Volha Stuzhynskaya, came out with a proposal to shorten the EUs blacklist by excluding university rectors, journalists and persons who no longer serve in the positions in which they allegedly took part in the persecution of government opponents.

Ms. Stuzhynskaya said that the shortening of the blacklist could facilitate the release of Belarus' political prisoners.