The European Council has decided to extend restrictive measures on Belarus, including an arms embargo and individual travel bans, for another year.
The arms embargo against Belarus, first introduced in 2011, will now be up for review on 28 February 2020. The Council agreed to prolong the ban, which extends to traditional arms and “equipment that could be used for internal repression”, in response to what it viewed as an ongoing failure on the part of Belarusian authorities to adhere to international human rights legislation and electoral standards.
A derogation to the restrictive measures, already in effect, which allows Belarusian residents to import biathlon equipment and sporting firearms under very specific, sport-related circumstances was also extended. Such imports are subject to prior authorisation by the authorities in their country of origin on a case by case basis.
The travel ban, along with a freeze on assets, covers four individuals based in Belarus and was implemented in 2004 in response to the as yet unresolved disappearances of journalist Dmitry Zavadsky, opposition politicians Viktor Gonchar and Yury Zakhrenko; and businessman Anatoly Krasovsky, between 1999 and 2000. A report released by the Council in 2004 supporting the travel ban said: “The conclusions which are drawn gravely impugn certain high representatives of the Government of Belarus. The draft resolution and recommendation call on the Council of Europe and its member and observer states to follow up on these findings, including by sanctions against the Belarusian authorities until they take the measures that must be taken against those responsible.”
The full arms embargo was introduced in 2011, in response to what the Council then called a “deteriorating human rights, democracy and rule-of-law situation”. In 2016 asset freezes and travel bans against 170 individual Belarusian residents, including President Alexander Lukashenko, and four businesses were lifted; the Council cited “improving EU-Belarus relations”, though opposition politicians and human rights campaigners noted that repressive behaviour by the Belarusian government had not decreased.