Updated at 16:11,02-12-2016

European Parliament urges EU to continue policy of sanctions against Belarusian government

The European Parliament (EP) has called on the European Union to continue the policy of sanctions against the Belarusian government while supporting Belarus' civil society.

The European Parliament "commends the EU's unity in response to the expulsion of EU diplomats from Belarus in February 2012; urges the Union and all of its Member States to remain coherent and consistent in their policies towards Belarus, and to keep up the pressure on the political regime, including through sanctions, among others against enlisted officials, while reaching out to civil society through such tools as enhanced visa facilitation and increased education, training and other exchange opportunities," says the EU Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World 2011, which was adopted by the EP on December 13.

The European Parliament remains "extremely concern at the lack of democracy, rule of law, fundamental freedoms and the respect for human rights in Belarus," the report says.

Belarus is the only European Neighborhood country not to fully participate in the European Union's Eastern Partnership program and the work of the EU-Neighborhood East Parliamentary Assembly (EURONEST PA), especially in the aftermath of the presidential election in December 2010 and the subsequent violent crackdown on protesters and political opposition, including trials of activists in 2011 which did not conform to international standards and saw disproportionately harsh sentences handed down, the report says.

The European Parliament expresses strong concern over the imprisonment of prominent Belarusian human rights defender Ales Byalyatski.

The EP "regrets the actions of the Polish and Lithuanian officials who allowed Ales Bialiatski [Byalyatski] to be arrested through the forwarding of banking information, and calls for utmost efforts by all actors in the EU to prevent a repetition of such mistakes," the report says.