Canada Joins The U.S, U.K, And EU In Sanctioning Belarus

On June 21st, 2021, Canada has joined the U.S, EU, and the U.K in imposing greater sanctions on several Belarusian officials and entities culminating from reoccurring demands on President Alexander Lukashenko to cooperate with investigations over circumventing a fair election by utilizing violent repressive state actions against political demonstrators to suppress anti-government protests such as arbitrary detentions, use of water cannons, and tear gas. Various human rights violations were observed, including the right to liberty and security of the person, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and due process.

Recently in May 2021, the diversion of Ryanair Flight 4978 flying between Athens, Greece and Vilnius, Lithuania to Minsk National Airport added further condemnation from Canada in what was considered Belarusian attempt to target and detain opposition on board of the plane, namely two passengers: Belarusian journalist and activist Roman Protasevich and his Russian companion Sofia Sapega.

A joint statement by Canada, the U.K., U.S., and EU said, “We are united in our deep concern regarding the Lukashenko regime’s continuing attacks on human rights, fundamental freedoms, and international law,” continuing that “We are united in calling for the regime to end its repressive practices against its own people. We are disappointed the regime has opted to walk away from its human rights obligations, adherence to democratic principles, and engagement with the international community.”

Canada has, in support of these sanctions, allowed Foreign Affairs Canada to add 17 more individuals and include several entities: the Air Navigation Services Enterprise, Belarusian Automobile Plant, a new oil company, and the Minski Automobile Plant. The new sanction stipulate that any dealing is prohibited between any person within or outside of Canada in the change, transaction, trade, or providing any financial good, services, or benefit to any listed person or entity under the sanction unless prescribed by any per-arranged legal or diplomatic reason.

It appears these sanctions are not successful in displaying a serious message to Belarus. From September 2020 to June 2021, Canada has invoked over 73 sanctions on selected Belarusian officials with an additional five addressing entities. Yet, Belarus has not relent on its persistent human rights violations.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the main opposition challenger who many believe to be the true winner of the election, fled Belarus to Lithuania after the vote and welcomed the new sanctions. She stated that “the EU and the entire civilized world have set a goal to stop Lukashenko and the escalation of violence.” She continued,  “The EU sanctions would raise not only external, but also internal pressure on Lukashenko … and will make it more costly for his main sponsor, the Kremlin, to maintain the Belarusian regime.”

Certainly, engaging in political discussion with Russia in over the disregard for human rights is the better approach. Rather than condemning a state that will shrug off these warnings if it sees no true repercussions, the best solution is to unify support among various states and capitalize on the impending pressure to engage in talks that place pressure where the head is rather than the body.