Politics

Canada slaps new sanctions on officials over human rights violations in Belarus

Canada has imposed new sanctions on Belarusian officials over human rights violations in that country — measures taken in coordination with the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly says the 'Belarusian regime must answer for its acts'

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko speaks at Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Heads of Government Council in Minsk, Belarus May 28, 2021. (Reuters)

Canada has imposed new sanctions on Belarusian officials over human rights violations in that country — measures taken in coordination with the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union.

"The Belarusian regime must answer for its acts, which affect those both inside and outside its borders," Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said in a media statement today.

"Along with its international partners, Canada stands against Belarus's ongoing efforts to silence political dissent and to destabilize the region. We will not allow the Lukashenko regime to continue to violate its international obligations with impunity. Human rights are not negotiable."

The federal government announced that 24 individuals and seven entities would face sanctions under the Special Economic Measures Act in response to actions taken by the regime of President Alexander Lukashenko.

Following presidential elections in August of 2020 that the West and many outside observers said were fraudulent, Lukashenko has used the Belarusian government's security forces to crack down brutally on public protests with arbitrary detentions and excessive force, the federal government says.

The government says Lukashenko's regime has not been deterred by sanctions imposed by Canada in August of 2021 and continues to arbitrarily arrest people and restrict freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

So far, 96 Belarusian officials and 12 entities have been sanctioned by Canada. The federal government says it has given more than $3 million to civil society organizations working to advance democracy in Belarus.

"It has also been made clear that the Lukashenko regime is orchestrating irregular migration across its borders with the EU, coming at a great cost to the region's stability," the media statement says.

Migrants from the Middle East and elsewhere warm up at the Belarus-Poland border near Grodno, Belarus, on Nov. 11, 2021. (Leonid Shcheglov/The Associated Press)

In a separate joint statement, Canada, the U.S., U.K. and E.U. called on the Lukashenko regime to stop "orchestrating ... irregular migration across its borders with the EU." The regime has been accused of shepherding migrants to cross the borders into EU nations as retaliation for sanctions imposed on Belarus.

The statement calls out Lukashenko's continued attacks on human rights in Belarus, as well as its disregard for international norms and repeated acts of repression.

The allies are calling for the regime to immediately release 900 political prisoners and to enter into dialogue with the democratic opposition and the Organization for the Security and Co-operation in Europe that would lead to "new, free and fair presidential elections under international observation."

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The U.S. State Department said the U.S. Treasury has "identified three aircraft as blocked property and designated 32 individuals and entities, including Belarusian state-owned enterprises, government officials, and other persons, who support the regime and facilitate its repression."

The EU has slapped asset freezes and travel bans on 17 people, including government representatives, military officials and judges. The measures also target air carriers — including state carrier Belavia — which have been accused of helping to bring migrants to Belarus to help them cross into the 27-country bloc, primarily through Latvia, Poland and Lithuania.

The U.K. has hit eight Belarusian individuals with sanctions and has frozen the assets of OJSC Belaruskali, one of the world's top producers of potash fertilizer and a major source of revenue for the Belarus government.

With files from The Associated Press

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