19 April 2021, Monday, 16:27
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Karin Karlsbro: Sanction List Against Lukashenka Needs Extension

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Karin Karlsbro: Sanction List Against Lukashenka Needs Extension
Karin Kalrsbro
Photo: liberalerna.se

It is easy to identify those involved in crimes on the side of the authorities.

Member of European Parliament Karin Karlsbro in an interview with Charter97.prg commented on the imposed sanctions against Lukashenka’s regime and future sanctions.

– Belarusians have been protesting against the dictatorship for almost four months. Last Sunday, tens of thousands of Belarusians took to the streets again. Honestly, did Belarusians surprise the EU and were the European countries expecting such developments?

– I want to say that I think nobody could expect what would happen because the Belarusian people are extraordinarily brave. They are braver than anyone could expect. I believe the European Union, different stakeholders and members of the European Parliament, we all follow what is going on in the streets every day, but especially on the weekends. My reaction is full respect for all these protesters that make this brave statement in the most terrible time.

– How do you assess the latest package of sanctions against the Lukashenka’s regime?

– I am very critical because the sanctions should have come much earlier. But it was an important step that they are in place. We had asked for them for a long time, so it was an absolutely slow reaction from the European Union’s side. I think that the EU must perform better. Now, we have the sanctions and I still think it should have been a long list of persons targeted by the sanctions. I am delighted that Lukashenka himself was included because there was a discussion if he should be included or not. I am satisfied that in the end he was included, but the list must be longer. I am asking for a new package of sanctions.

– What do you expect from the 3rd package of sanctions?

– The list is too short because there are so many people involved in the oppression and what is going on right now. It is quite easy to identify people in positions and people who committed violence or are responsible for the violence in the streets. I think the list must be extended to more people. It should be a clear message that if you take part in this extraordinary violence and oppression of the citizens of Belarus, it has a price and the rest of the world sees what is happening.

– The EU introduced the first sanctions on 2 October 2020 against the Lukashenka’s regime, but violence on the streets of Belarus continues. What do you think the EU can do to help Belarusians?

– Firstly, the list of the people targeted by the sanctions should be extended. The second thing is the long-term perspective. It will take longer, but I think that cooperation between the European Union and Belarus in the framework of the Eastern Partnership should be reviewed. All kind of support from the European Union to the country should be reviewed in light of what is happening there. Another important thing is, that the European Union, as well as other international organizations, could play an important part in the support of the Belarusian activists and people, to organize some institution, somebody that would take care of all the evidence, witness testimony from the people, because tomorrow’s Belarus must be built on truth. An important thing for the future is to give people the possibility to share their experience, tell their stories, collect them for the future because the people who are responsible for the violence in the streets must know that the truth will follow them. And in the future, they will take the responsibility for what they are doing right now. That is why it is important to collect the stories. Not always, but sometimes, people know who is beating them and they know who is responsible for the violence and I think that something could be done.

– Do you think the EU should impose wide-spread economic sanctions against the Lukashenka’s regime state companies?

– I am open for the sanctions that work. We should use all peaceful instruments that work because what is going on right now is unacceptable. Sanctions that work must be used.

– During Sunday's protests, telecommunication companies turn off the mobile Internet to minimize the flow of information. One of the companies is Austrian A1. Do you think the EU should fine or impose sanctions against companies that cooperate with the Lukashenka’s regime?

– Telecom companies have the responsibility to the customers, and I have raised the topic of the company you mentioned in the European Parliament. I wrote a letter to them to ask them to stop following the instructions from Lukashenka in this case. It should be a common standard that all international companies dealing with internet and telecommunication operators do not take orders from dictators. I also realized that Belarusian people needed access to the Internet. Therefore, this is a challenging situation. International companies must take responsibility for their behavior, and we expect much more from them.

- What can ordinary Belarusian citizens do to facilitate the assistance of the EU?

– I and my colleagues try to follow the situation in Belarus through all the channels we have. We try to have contact with the civil society and various human rights organizations because I think the truth must reach the rest of the world. When I receive letters, see what is going on through social media, for example, it makes a difference. We listen, want to know what is happening. There are so many people in the world, Europe, and also Sweden, my country, who do care about what is going on. All stories that are being told about the situation – we have to listen to them. We can only act if we have the truth and up-to-date correct information. I want to let them know that all the information that we receive from them is very important to us, that we use it and we base our positions on it.

– What is the significance of moving the hockey tournament (IIHF) from Belarus?

– Normally we say sports and politics are two different things but in Belarus; it is interconnected with the Belarusian ice hockey. It’s impossible to hold an international championship in Belarus now. It would be like playing ice hockey with a dictator himself. As far as I know, it is the favorite sport of Lukashenka. This hockey event will be like giving him the best gift that he could have wished for. In solidarity with the Belarusian people and protesters, we should not send our hockey teams to Belarus. It is also a question of security; it is not possible to go there. The security cannot be kept in the country where everyone can be beaten in the streets. We cannot impose sanctions on the regime and at the same time play hockey with it. It is impossible. I collected signatures in the European Parliament on this matter, and I also collected signatures among the Swedish MEPs to ask the same thing from the Swedish hockey organization. This Friday, the Swedish hockey organization said that they would prefer to move the tournament from Belarus. That was a good signal on the part of Sweden.

It is an illegitimate regime, it is a dictator, we imposed sanctions, we make political statements and in that case, it is not possible to go there and sit at the same place watching ice hockey and being his guest. It is, of course, a political position, but I think when we see what is going on in the streets of Belarus, this terrible violence against the citizens of all ages – women, men, young, old. It is not only a topic for the political sphere, but also it is a question for civil society, sports organizations, academics, and all of us who cooperate with the country. You have to take a position, you have to reflect on how your activities can support the people and protesters or how it can make it harder for them to fulfil their fight for democracy and freedom. It is something for the whole society to reflect on.

– In the ideal case scenario the trials of the perpetrators of atrocities from Belarus will take place in Belarus but in case this is not possible for whatever reasons (staff, financial, logistical), do you think there is the prospect of these trials taking place in Sweden under the universal jurisdiction principle? Is Sweden able to assist with evidence collection, analysis, prosecution and investigation?

– I think it is the matter of the opposition. On our part, the part of European Union and international organizations, we can support and facilitate the way for Belarusians on a collection of individual stories, evidence of experiences, what people are going through right now. I believe the Belarusian opposition should develop such a mechanism.

All democracies should be ready to do what is necessary. I hope it will be soon; the country will move forward, have new elections, deal with a future in a better way and also deal with all the terrible things that took place in the latest months. I believe it is a responsibility for the European Union and my own country to be ready to assist if it is needed.