Sep 29, 2020 - World

U.K. and Canada sanction Belarus dictator over rigged election


Lukashenko. Photo: Siarhei Leskiec/AFP via Getty Images

The U.K. and Canada on Tuesday announced they would impose sanctions on Belarus dictator Aleksander Lukashenko and members of his government for violence against protesters in the wake of August's rigged election.

Why it matters: The sanctions against the Belarus strongman represent the first major penalties enacted by Western powers since a post-election crackdown in which Lukashenko's security forces have brutalized protesters and detained major opposition figures.

The state of play: The U.S., U.K., Canada and the European Union no longer recognize Lukashenko as the legitimate leader of Belarus, but he has continued to cling to power throughout 50 straight days of protests with the help of Russia.

The big picture: The sanctions fall under British and Canadian laws crafted in the model of the U.S. Magnitsky Act, which targets alleged human rights abusers by freezing their assets and imposing visa bans.

  • The EU plans to introduce its own Magnitsky Act and sought last week to pass sanctions against Belarus, but failed after Cyprus, one of the bloc's smallest member states, objected due to an unrelated matter.
  • The Trump administration signaled earlier this month that it would also impose targeted sanctions on Belarusians responsible for election violence.

What they're saying:

  • U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab: "Today the UK and Canada have sent a clear message by imposing sanctions against Alexander Lukashenko’s violent and fraudulent regime. We don’t accept the results of this rigged election. We will hold those responsible for the thuggery deployed against the Belarusian people to account and we will stand up for our values of democracy and human rights."
  • Canadian Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne: "Canada will not stand by silently as the Government of Belarus continues to commit systematic human rights violations and shows no indication of being genuinely committed to finding a negotiated solution with opposition groups."

Go deeper: The EU may soon get its own Magnitsky Act to target human rights abusers

Go deeper