Against the background of the further deterioration of the situation in Belarus the Council of the European Union has decided to designate additional persons responsible for serious violations of human rights or the repression of civil society and democratic opposition, to the list of those subject to travel restrictions and assets freezes. The Council also decided to designate further businessmen and companies benefitting from or supporting the regime and will agree further such designations at upcoming Council meetings if all Belarusian political prisoners are not released. The legal acts, including the list of additional designations, will be published in the EU Official Journal of March 24, 2012. But it is already known that the list does not contain Yury Chyzh’s company cooperating with Slovenia, and three companies having strong business relations to Latvia.
As it stated in the document including the conlusions on Belarus made by the EU Council, the EU calls for the immediate release and rehabilitation of all remaining political prisoners. It condemned the rejection of the appeal of human rights defender and political prisoner Ales Bialiatski as well as the sentencing to two years in prison of Siarhei Kavalenka. The EU is deeply concerned about reports of torture and inhumane prison conditions of political prisoners, such as of former presidential candidates Andrey Sannikau and Mikalai Statkevich and activists Dzmitry Bandarenka, Zmitser Dashkevich and Mikalai Autukhovich. The Council reminds the Belarusian authorities of their obligation under international law to ensure the respect of the prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and of their responsibility to investigate reports thereof.
The EU Council strongly condemned the execution of Uladzislau Kavaliou and Dzmitry Kanavalau. It reiterates its call on the authorities of Belarus to join a global moratorium on the death penalty as a first step towards its universal abolition and stressed that the EU opposes capital punishment under all circumstances.
The EU reiterates its call on the Belarusian authorities to stop all harassment of members of the opposition, human rights defenders, journalists and civil society, and not to hinder their freedom of movement. «The EU also condemned the suppression of non-violent protests and the systematic use of the judicial system as a means of repression, including against peaceful protesters. It is furthermore strongly concerned about the introduction of new legislation that will further restrict the Belarusian citizens’ freedoms of assembly, association and the free flow of information on the internet, as well as the provision of support to civil society,» the document reads.
The Council urges Belarus to respect internationally recognised diplomatic immunities and privileges of EU diplomatic representations and their personnel in Minsk and to stop the ongoing harassment and intimidation.
In the context of the upcoming 2014 World Ice Hockey Championship, the EU promises to keep International and National Ice Hockey Federations informed about its deep concerns as regards the lack of respect by Belarus for human rights, the rule of law and democratic principles.
The EU reiterates its readiness to launch negotiations for visa facilitation and readmission agreements which would enhance people-to-people contacts to the benefit of the Belarusian population at large, and strongly regrets the unconstructive position of the Belarusian authorities in not responding so far to the letter sent in June 2011 inviting them to start negotiations.