‘Due to human rights violations and abuses’: US unfreezes sanctions against nine Belarusian enterprises

Hrodna Azot workers. 19 August 2020. Photo: Vasil Malchanau / Belsat

On April 19, the US Department of the Treasury announced the revocation of the Belarus-related General License (GL) and implementation of a 45-day wind down of transactions.

From June 3 on, nine Belarusian companies will be put under the US sanctions again: Belarusian Oil Trade House, Belneftekhim, Belneftekhim USA Inc, Belshina OAO, Grodno Azot OAO, Grodno Khimvolokno OAO, Lakokraska OAO, Naftan OAO, Polotsk Steklovolokno OAO. US businesses and citizens are to be barred from entering into economic and financial relationships with the above mentioned companies; all their assets and accounts located in the United States will be frozen.

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According to the US Department of State, this action is a further consequence of the Belarusian authorities’ flagrant disregard for human rights and Belarus’ failure to comply with its obligations under international human rights law.

“In 2015, the Department of the Treasury – in consultation with the Department of State – issued the General License authorising US persons to engage in certain transactions with nine sanctioned Belarusian state-owned enterprises. The GL had been renewed annually through 2020 due to notable progress by Belarusian authorities on human rights, particularly the release of all political prisoners during this time. However, as a result of government suppression surrounding the fraudulent August 2020 presidential elections in Belarus and its aftermath, there are more than 340 political prisoners detained in Belarus today. Given the sharply deteriorating human rights situation in Belarus, the US government determined a further extension would be inconsistent with the Belarus Democracy Act and incompatible with American values,” the Department of State said on Monday.

In late March, the United States voiced their intention to reintroduce economic sanctions against Belarusian state-owned enterprises; they have been suspended since 2015.. At the same time, Ned Price, Spokesman for the US Department of State, said if the Lukashenka regime took ‘proper steps’ (i.e. releasing all political prisoners and stopping violence against the Belarusian people), such measure could be ‘reversible’.

Last week, EU member countries submitted their proposals regarding the fourth package of sanctions which might be introduced against the representatives of the Lukashenka regime in the near future.

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