The American rights group Freedom House [advocacy website] on Thursday urged [press release] the US and European Union (EU) [official website] to renew full sanctions against Belarus in the wake of post-election unrest. Freedom House commended U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and European High Representative Catherine Ashton [official websites] for their joint statement [text] calling on Belarusian authorities to release imprisoned presidential candidates and election protesters, and condemning all violence in the aftermath of last week's elections. Freedom House Executive Director David J. Kramer urged further action, stating that
[w]hile today's strong statement from foreign policy leaders in the United States and Europe is encouraging, both should be prepared to take further concrete action should conditions in Minsk not change dramatically and immediately. ... If the government of Belarus fails to take fully restorative action in the next two weeks, the European Union should renew full sanctions against the Lukashenka regime, which had been suspended in 2008. The current situation is much worse than that in 2006, when the E.U. and U.S. together imposed sanctions against the regime.Freedom House is pressing for trans-Atlantic solidarity in taking action for this week's post-election controversy in Belarus.
Last week, Belarus conducted a presidential election that critics allege did not meet international standards. On Monday, Belarusian police arrested hundreds of demonstrators [JURIST report], including seven of the nine presidential candidates, who were protesting the results of Sunday's presidential election. The official results declared incumbent Alexander Lukashenko [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] the winner of the presidency for a fourth term. Hundreds of activists were arrested after protesting Lukashenko's 2006 presidential win, including opposition candidate Alexander Milinkevich [JURIST reports]. While Lukashenko has since sought to improve his country's ties with western nations, the US State Department [official website] has historically criticized Belarus' human rights record [2009 report; JURIST report]. The UN General Assembly Third Committee and the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights [JURIST reports] have similarly denounced Belarus for human rights abuses.