It’s been a year since the fraudulent presidential election in Belarus, which was deemed neither free nor fair by the international community. Massive nation-wide protests emerged against Alyaksandr Lukashenka, the man dubbed “Europe’s last dictator.”
The protests were met with brutal force by the Lukashenka regime. As the U.S. State Department’s 2020 human rights report on Belarus notes, at least four protesters were killed and thousands were arrested, some subjected to beatings, sexual abuse, and electric shock. To this day, over 600 people remain unjustly detained. On the anniversary of the fraudulent election, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken deplored the imprisonment of peaceful protesters, closing of independent media outlets, and attempts by Belarusian authorities to silence NGOs and civil society.
As Secretary of State Blinken noted, in recent months the Lukashenka regime’s terror tactics have reached beyond the land borders of Belarus. In May, Belarusian authorities diverted a commercial airliner flying over Belarusian airspace for the purpose of arresting a Belarusian journalist.
Most recently, Belarusian authorities attempted to force Belarusian Olympian Krystsyna Tsimanouskaya, who has since been offered a humanitarian visa by Poland, to return to Belarus against her will simply for exercising her freedom of expression and criticizing the Belarusian Olympic Committee on social media.
In response to the continued flagrant disregard for human rights and Belarus’ failure to comply with its obligations under international human rights law, on August 9 Secretary of State Blinken announced sanctions against forty-four individuals and entities “in order to hold Alyaksandr Lukashenka and his regime to account for its continued, violent repression of Belarusians inside and outside the country.” Those targeted by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control include state-owned enterprises, government officials, and others who support the regime; facilitate its violent repression; and violate the rule of law.
Secretary Blinken welcomed sanctions imposed the same day by the United Kingdom and Canada, as well as those announced by the European Union on June 24. “The United States further commends the ongoing close coordination with Lithuania and Poland as a demonstration of the steadfast international resolve in supporting the Belarusian people’s democratic aspirations. …We will continue working with the international community to hold to account those responsible for human rights violations and abuses in Belarus. We stand with the people of Belarus in support of their human rights and fundamental freedoms.”