Östgruppen har tillsammans med sex andra europeiska organisationer (däribland European Belarus som leds av förre presidentkandidaten och politiske fången Andrej Sannikau) skrivit ett öppet brev till utrikesministrarna i EU:s medlemsstater och till EU:s utrikeschef Catherine Ashton. I brevet uppmanar vi EU:s ministerråd – som den 21 oktober ska ompröva sin sanktionspolitik gentemot den belarusiska (vitryska) regimen – att skärpa de riktade ekonomiska sanktionerna mot personer och företag som finansierar Lukasjenkas förtryck.
Det handlar bland annat om tre företag som kontrolleras av oligarken Jury Tjyzj. Själv är han sedan ett tag tillbaka redan uppsatt på EU:s sanktionslista tillsammans med ett antal företag i hans ägo. Men tre företag undantogs när det begav sig, uppenbarligen efter påtryckningar från Slovenien och Lettland, länder där just dessa företag var särskilt aktiva och gav ekonomisk avkastning till det inhemska näringslivet. Dessa bör nu också föras upp på sanktionslistan. Samma sak bör ske med fyra statliga företag som också genererar stora intäkter till förtryckarregimen via export, inte minst till EU.
Vår uppmaning till skärpta ekonomiska sanktioner grundar sig på rekommendationerna i den analytiska rapport som en arbetsgrupp inom IKK – Internationella kommittén för kontroll av människorättssituationen i Belarus, en koalition av organisationer där också Östgruppen ingår – just har publicerat. Den aktuella rapporten, som tydligt redogör för hur de aktuella företagen fått en privilegierad ställning i utbyte mot att de sponsrar regimen, bifogas också brevet till utrikesministrarna och Ashton.
Det har på senare tid kommit oroväckande signaler om att ministerrådet är på väg att plocka bort ett antal personer från sanktionslistan. Oroväckande, eftersom det inte har skett några som helst förbättringar av människorättssituationen i Belarus, och en revidering av listan i den riktningen därmed skulle uppfattas som att EU (återigen) ger efter för Lukasjenka.
Istället bör sanktionerna snarare skärpas, och då är ett utmärkt alternativ just att försöka stoppa de stora penningflöden som ovan nämnda företags export genererar till regimen. Om vissa EU-länder riskerar att drabbas ekonomiskt av sådana åtgärder bör man inom EU kunna reglera detta internt, exempelvis med hjälp av en centralt finansierad fond som kan användas för att täcka sådana förluster.
IKK:s rapport finns att läsa här (ett par centrala avsnitt finns inklistrade längst ner i detta blogginlägg). The Guardian skriver om vårt initiativ i en artikel som finns här. Det öppna brevet till Carl Bildt och de andra utrikesministrarna återfinns här nedan:
HE Carl Bildt
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden
Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
Gustav Adolfs torg 1
SE-103 39 Stockholm
15 October, 2013
The European Union has a few more days to revise and extend its restrictive measures in respect of Belarus and we would like to draw your attention to the attached recommendations of the Working Group on Investment of the Committee of International Control over the Human Rights Situation in Belarus which we strongly endorse. The recommendations can also be found at http://hrwatch-by.org/en/annual-review-european-union-s-restrictive-measures-against-belarus-should-be-made-effective-closing.
Before considering the restrictive measures and ways to improve their efficacy we ask that the EU Foreign Affairs Council and the EU member states reflect upon a few of the reasons why progress in this area has become a matter of such urgency and the evidence that the restrictive measures in their current form are ineffective.
Recently the number of political prisoners in Belarus has once again increased. Opposition activist Andrey Gaidukou was sentenced to 1,5 years of imprisonment for “attempted state treason”. The trial was closed and experts and human rights activists attribute this to the weakness or even absence of any substance to the charges.
A Catholic priest, Uladzislau Lazar, was arrested in June of 2013 and placed in a KGB investigative isolator. He is allegedly accused of dealing with a person suspected of espionage. In case his is found guilty Uladzislau Lazar can be sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment.
At least ten political prisoners remain behind the bars and are serving their terms in unbearable conditions. They are regularly arbitrarily accused by the prison administration of violating prison regulations, which is used as an excuse for placing them in disciplinary cells or changing their prison regime to a stricter one. Food parcels are prohibited even though food in prison is of very low quality and nutritional value. Adequate medical care is not provided. Visitation by family members is severely restricted or prohibited. Prison authorities use other convicts to apply pressure to political prisoners and to punish inmates who talk to them. The conditions of incarceration are by any definition, prolonged torture.
On the 3rd of September the political prisoner Mikalay Autuhovich attempted to commit suicide: he cut open his stomach after pressure from the prison administration and systematic violation of his rights.
No former political prisoners have been rehabilitated; “preventive supervision” is widely applied to them, which hardly differs from home arrest and in fact constitutes a continuation of their prison terms. Opposition activists Dzmitry Dashkevich, Pavel Vinagradau, Vasil Parfiankou, Aliaksandr Malchanau and others face the real danger of further trials and new imprisonments in stricter conditions. Authorities severely restrict their civil and political rights, create unbearable conditions for their political activities and make regular life impossible. Private businessmen and state enterprises are prohibited to employ them, they are prohibited to leave their place of living or go abroad.
Arbitrary administrative arrests, detention and fines are widely used to suppress civil and political activities. Thus, opposition activist Pavel Vinahradau has already spent 70 days in prison during 2013 serving his administrative sentences.
A new case of Soviet style punitive psychiatry has been registered by Belarusian human right activists. A pediatrician, Igor Postnov was sent to compulsory treatment in a mental hospital without any legal basis after his public criticism of the Vitebsk regional authorities. According to Postnov, degrading methods of “treatment” and injections of unknown medicines were implemented.
A new, at least for the 21st century, worrying practice of arbitrary and forcibly sending democratic activists to medical labour centers is now applied by Belarusian authorities. A democratic activist, Vasil Parfiankou, was sent in September 2013 for compulsory treatment. It is important to mention, that the procedure for sending people to such establishments does not require any serious court hearing. It is a simplified procedure that can be carried out in absence of the accused person and based only on the testimony of police officers. At the same time “treatment” in such establishments sometimes is harder than serving a prison term.
Serious pressure on independent trade unions has been constant since the beginning of 2013. Systemic limitations of the right to peaceful assembly and the right for association have in fact outlawed any political and civil activism.
The death penalty is still applied in Belarus, which is the only country in Europe that has not abolished capital punishment. Four verdicts for capital punishment have been passed this year. Belarusian courts are totally dependent on authorities. They cannot ensure the unprejudiced review of cases and in high profile capital cases verdicts must be seen as government decisions and not the verdicts of a functional court system. At the same time an atmosphere of impunity for human rights violations is being cultivated in Belarusian law-enforcement structures, only increasing violations.
Despite the fact that multiple promises to release political prisoners have been given to EU by envoys of Lukashenka at the highest levels in formal and informal ways, the situation for political prisoners has deteriorated. In fact, not a single improvement in the human rights situation and rule of law has been registered by Belarusian human rights NGOs this year. All of this has occurred against a background of increasing EU “dialogue” with Belarus. Clearly, the “dialogue” is not working and restrictive measures which once proved so effective in releasing political prisoners are now failing to produce results.
Last month the EU Parliament called for an “…in-depth evaluation of the current EU restrictive measures against Belarusian officials and entities with the view, if needed, to improve their effectiveness and adapt their scope…” There can be no question that urgent changes are required. The number of political prisoners in Belarus has again increased, the human rights situation continues to deteriorate, and the regime is now deriving much of its revenues from increasing exports to and through the EU. The Working Group on Investment of the Committee of International Control over the Human Rights Situation in Belarus has carried out such an evaluation and made concrete recommendations how the current restrictive measures can be made effective.
We believe that only a consistent EU strategy with the use of effective restrictive measures can lead to positive change in Belarus and we believe that these recommendations if adopted would go a long way towards fostering that change.
- Martin Uggla, Chair of Östgruppen (Sweden), on behalf of Östgruppen
- Andrei Sannikov, leader of the Civic Movement ”European Belarus” (Belarus and Poland), on behalf of the Civic Movement ”European Belarus”
- Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (Norway), on behalf of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee
- Rostislav Valvoda, deputy director of the Center for Democracy and Human Rights of the “People in Need” NGO (Czech Republic), on behalf of the “People in Need”
- Marco Fieber, coordinator of Libereco – Partnership for Human rights (Switzerland and Germany), on behalf of Libereco – Partnership for Human rights
- Martin Lukac, chairman of AdHoc (Slovakia), on behalf of AdHoc
- Mall Hellam, executive director of Open Estonia Foundation (Estonia), on behalf of Open Estonia Foundation