U.S. says Belarusian state firms' license revoked due to rights abusesReuters | Updated: 19-04-2021 22:19 IST | Created: 19-04-2021 22:19 IST
The United States on Monday revoked an authorization for certain transactions with nine sanctioned Belarusian state-owned enterprises over alleged human rights violations and abuses in the Eastern European country.
"This action is a further consequence of the Belarusian authorities' flagrant disregard for human rights and Belarus' failure to comply with its obligations under international human rights law," U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. The U.S. Treasury Department on Monday issued a new license allowing the wind-down of transactions involving the companies, which include state energy firm Belneftekhim, until June 3.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said last month that the department could not recommend the renewal of the license, adding that the human rights situation in Belarus has deteriorated to arguably the worst point in the country's independent history. The license, which allowed U.S. persons to engage in certain transactions with the enterprises, had been renewed annually since 2015 through last year due to notable progress by Belarusian authorities on human rights, Blinken said.
But Washington decided that an extension this year would go against U.S. values and the Belarus Democracy Act, Blinken said, adding that the nine companies finance and support Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko's government, "facilitating its violent repression of the Belarusian people and repeated rejection of the rule of law." Lukashenko, 66, has faced the biggest challenge to his nearly 27-year-rule since protesters took to the streets after he was declared the winner of an election last year that they said was rigged.
About 35,000 people have been detained since the start of regular demonstrations in August 2020. Lukashenko denies electoral fraud and has accused the West of sponsoring the protests. "The United States calls on the Belarusian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all those unjustly detained or imprisoned," Blinken said. He added that more than 340 political prisoners were currently detained in Belarus as a result of government suppression during and after the country's 2020 election.
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