Council of EU: We'll expand black list until political prisoners' release

In the conclusions, the Council of the EU underlines once again that it won't give up the policy of sanctions until there are political prisoners in Belarus.

As the political prisoners have not been released and rehabilitated, and against the background of the further deterioration of the situation, the Council 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 EU´s restrictive measures remain open and under constant review.

The EU calls for the immediate release and rehabilitation of all remaining political prisoners. It condemns the rejection of the appeal of human rights defender and political prisoner Ales Byalyatski as well as the sentencing to two years in prison of Syarhei Kavalenka. The EU is deeply concerned about reports of torture and inhumane prison conditions of political prisoners, such as of former presidential candidates Andrei Sannikaw and Mikalay Statkevich and activists Dzmitry Bandarenka, Dzmitry Dashkevich and Mikalay Awtukhovich. The EU 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.

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 Council again 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.

There is also a separate claim dedicated to the Ice Hockey World Cup-2014. "In the context of the upcoming 2014 World Ice Hockey Championship, the EU will 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.

It is stated in the conclusions that the EU reiterates its firm commitment to strengthening its  engagement with the Belarusian people and civil society and the Council welcomes that the EU is now launching a “European dialogue on modernisation”.