U.S. President Barack Obama has extended by one year sanctions on Belarus for what he said are the Minsk government's steps backward in the development of democratic governance and respect for human rights, the White House said on Thursday.
Obama's move keeps in force U.S. sanctions against Belarusian individuals and companies that were first imposed in 2006 by then-President George W. Bush.
In a letter Thursday to the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Mr. Obama said: “In 2011, the Government of Belarus continued its crackdown against political opposition, civil society, and independent media. The government arbitrarily arrested, detained, and imprisoned citizens for criticizing officials or for participating in demonstrations; imprisoned at least one human rights activist on manufactured charges; and prevented independent media from disseminating information and materials.”
“These actions show that the Government of Belarus has taken additional steps backward in the development of democratic governance and respect for human rights.”
“For this reason, I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency declared to deal with this threat and the related measures blocking the property of certain persons,” Obama’s letter said.
The U.S. sanctions come in addition to those imposed by the European Union in an effort to persuade authoritarian Belarusian leader President Alexander Lukashenko to make progress on human rights.
On June 12, Lukashenko ordered a nationwide amnesty to mark Independence Day on July 3, prompting talks about release of political prisoners in the country.
However, Lukashenko himself denied that the amnesty is a political move aimed to solve the crisis in EU-Belarusian relations, caused by jailing of opposition activists in Belarus.