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What is the meaning of sanctions?

How do they work? Belarusians often have questions about sanctions, their imposition, circumvention by the regime and much more. In this video, I want to answer the frequently asked questions

What are the possible tools of the sanctions policy?

To begin with, let's analyze all the possible instruments of sanctions policy and its legitimacy on the part of our partners. The main point is that sanctions are a tool for prosecuting actions that grossly violate international law, including violations of human rights, promoting military aggression, etc.

Sanctions are not a tool to solve all problems arising from violations of international law, but an effective and civilized tool. Imagine the situation, for example, if Lukashenko hijacked a civilian plane, should the EU retaliate by hijacking a Belavia plane to punish the regime?

Or if Lukashenko artificially organized a wave of migration toward the European Union, bringing migrants to the border and dumping them on the Polish or Lithuanian side, should the European authorities bring migrants and dump them on the territory of Belarus? Should the Ukrainians and their allies take military action in response to the co-aggression of the Lukashenko regime?

Let us be realistic. These are impossible and illegal retaliatory options. Therefore, it should be understood that today, in addition to the application of international law for crimes punishable under international law, sanctions are an important tool for influencing the dictatorial regime.

It is also important to understand that sanctions are divided into instruments that can be applied at the multilateral level, as an example of EU sanctions, or at the national level, as an example of U.S., British, Canadian, Swiss or even individual EU states whose legislation provides for the application of national sanctions instruments. In general, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia use such an instrument.

Now, in the Czech Republic, a new legal act has been adopted and entered into force since January of this year, which can be provisionally called the Czech "Magnitsky Act", which authorizes the use of national sanctions by the Czech Republic.

Sanctions policy can be applied not only by states, but also by international organizations. Recently, there has been talk about the possibility of sanctions being applied by the International Labor Organization.

By their nature, sanctions are also divided into personal and economic sanctions. Personal sanctions are understood as sanctions against politicians and government officials who use their instruments of power to commit illegal actions that violate international and national law.

Personal sanctions can also be applied to individuals who help the authorities finance repressive policies. These are the so-called "purse strings of the regime”. In the European Union, personal sanctions are handled by the European External Action Service.

In addition to personal sanctions, economic sanctions, which are the most effective tool of sanctions policy, should also be singled out. In the EU, economic sanctions are handled by the European Commission, because the European Commission is responsible for trade rules.

What is the procedure for placing a person on a sanctions list?

The procedure is stipulated by the legislation of the states that impose sanctions, or including supranational legislation, as in the case of the European Union. In addition, it is an internal matter of these states, and they reserve the right to inform the public of the procedure.

In particular, in the European Union, sanctions are imposed through the adoption of a regulation, which by virtue of its direct effect is the toughest regulatory instrument in the EU. The Regulation becomes part of the legislation of each EU country as soon as it enters into force. Depending on the content, regulations are adopted by the EU Council or the European Commission. Regulations on sanctions against Belarus were adopted primarily by the EU Council.

Of course, the direct initiative to impose sanctions in the EU belongs to the participating countries. Any of them may initiate the adoption of the EU sanctions. This initiative also belongs to the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

It should also be understood that the EU publishes the names of persons against whom sanctions are imposed. Other EU members that impose national sanctions do the same. For example, Poland. But in the case of the United States of America, the names of persons against whom personal sanctions are imposed are not published.

And this raises the question of the effectiveness of personal sanctions. After all, if a person does not know that he or she is on the sanctions list, he or she can only find out when trying to get a visa or trying to come to the United States.

How active is the Cabinet on this issue?

Photo: NAM-media

The Cabinet is constantly making proposals to EU supranational bodies and governments of EU member states, governments of other democratic states of the world (USA, UK, Switzerland, Ukraine, etc.) to improve the sanctions regime and expand the sanctions lists.

In the last few months alone, these proposals have been sent to the authorized bodies of Slovenia, the United Kingdom, the United States, the Czech Republic, Poland, Estonia, Sweden, Switzerland, Latvia, the United Kingdom, Austria and the European Union. In total, we proposed personal sanctions against 340 individuals and also sent proposals for the imposition of economic sanctions against 13 companies.

It should be noted that during this time, a number of sanctions decisions have already been taken against representatives of the Lukashenko regime. For example, Poland imposed national sanctions in November 2022. The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Administration of Poland is responsible for this policy there. In the same month, Canada imposed sanctions on individuals and companies from Belarus. The U.S. also recently imposed additional sanctions, adding a little more than two dozen people to its personal list. In late January this year, Ukraine introduced sanctions against 23 Belarusian companies.

The European Union is preparing a new package of sanctions against Belarus, which concerns the Lukashenko regime's complicity in Russia's aggression against Ukraine. This package is aimed at harmonizing sanctions policy against Russia and the Lukashenko regime. In addition, it provides for personal sanctions against certain members of the military and political leadership of the regime.

According to our calculations, to date, personal sanctions have been imposed on about 200 individuals within the EU alone. With national sanctions, the number is higher and will continue to grow. This is a small number, because compared to the thousands of political prisoners, it is definitely disproportionate, and we see a lack of motivation on the part of our partners to act.

Here we often encounter bureaucratic obstacles when we are unofficially informed of the limits for imposing personal sanctions, because it involves paperwork, preparation of substantiation. Under each name, under each company, there should be a qualitative factual and legal justification of the imposition of certain sanctions.

Who usually gets on the sanctions list? Is it only famous people, for example, propagandists, businessmen close to Lukashenko, officials, or can it be the rector of a university that repressed students?

The sanctions lists include persons responsible for actions that constitute a crime or other gross violation of both national and international law. First and foremost, these are the individuals who give criminal orders, who bear for their actions the full weight of not only legal, but also political responsibility — high-ranking civil and law enforcement officials.

The sanctions lists also include the so-called "purse strings of the regime", who earned their wealth through non-transparent schemes and thanks to the patronage of the Lukashenko regime. But the sanctions lists can also include ordinary propagandists, persons in relation to whom there are reasonable grounds to suspect their involvement in committing crimes (violence, torture, murder).

For example, the sanctions list may also include the heads of educational institutions. In particular, the EU sanctions list includes, for example, university rectors (the rector of the Academy of Arts, the rector of Minsk Medical University, the rector of Brest Technical University), who are responsible for politically motivated expulsions of students and firing of teachers.

Sanctions are a civilized way of international response to violent violations of international law. We believe that sanctions can only be terminated if the perpetrators cease their criminal activities. Sanctions instruments are not a universal means of achieving our goals, but one element of a strategy.


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