The use of tough sanctions against Lukashenka can very quickly release all political prisoners.
The application of any sanctions against the regime in Belarus is morally justified, since it pursues the goal of saving the life and health of people.
The sanctions helped to get rid of the totalitarian communist regimes in the USSR and in the "countries of the socialist camp." The sanctions have saved the lives of thousands of political prisoners around the world - and this is the most important thing.
The history of the sanctions imposed against the Lukashenka regime in Belarus is very simple: there have never been any real long-term sanctions that could give the necessary result, primarily in the field of protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms. At the same time, even a short-term imposition of sanctions immediately led to concrete results, in particular, to the release of political prisoners.
This was the case when the United States imposed sanctions on Belneftekhim in 2008, demanding the release of jailed presidential candidate Aliaksandr Kazulin. Kazulin was released several months later.
This was the case in March 2012, when the European Union imposed sanctions against some of the "wallets" of the dictator and their companies. Less than a month later, one of the opposition leaders, Dzmitry Bandarenka, and myself, were released.
There is another side to sanctions: when they are lifted, despite the lack of improvements in human rights, dictators perceive such decisions as a signal for further repression.
This happened in Belarus. After the European Union lifted the sanctions in 2016, the Lukashenka regime with the help of cash infusions from the West began to prepare for the current unprecedented repressions, for the use of violence unprecedented since the Second World War against civilians. In the war against Belarusians, the punishers, by the way, used Polish rubber bullets, Czech grenades, Canadian water cannons, American technologies for tracking and blocking the Internet, etc.
This is something to keep in mind: sanctions make it possible to achieve an improvement in the human rights situation, and the lifting of sanctions will necessarily lead to a worsening of this situation.
It should also be emphasized that sanctions are by no means a strategy for dealing with a dictatorship. It is a tool that allows you to influence the regime to save people. At the same time, without such an instrument, it is unlikely that any reasonable policy can emerge and be implemented.
The sanctions are different. The most effective are economic, trade, financial ones. Democracies are reluctant to introduce them, explaining by various reasons: from geopolitical to humanitarian, but in reality it most often turns out that the reluctance is associated with the presence of specific interests of individual governments that are interested in doing business with the dictator.
We also have figures who like to speculate that sanctions are ineffective, or it is hypocritical to assert that "the sanctions will harm the people of Belarus." Behind all this reasoning is either paid or compromised work to "whiten" the Lukashenka regime.
From the same category - formidable demands for targeted sanctions. Pinpoint sanctions in Europe are considered to be simply a restriction on tourist trips to the Schengen area. So the call for targeted sanctions is deciphered as follows: "impose any personal sanctions, just do not take more serious measures."
It should be noted right away that the application of any sanctions against the regime in Belarus is morally justified, since it pursues the goal of saving people's lives and health. As the United States emphasized, when deciding to renew the sanctions, the main reason was flagrant human rights violations, and the main demand was the release of all prisoners persecuted for political reasons.
The weakest type of sanctions applied to Belarus is just personal sanctions. They can be effective against Russia, where many people who have committed crimes with impunity have impressive assets in the West, and for whom the ban on entering Europe or the United States is painful, but the Belarusian servants of the regime are in a different position. They have practically no property or financial interests in the West.
Personal sanctions are effective if they are imposed immediately after the brutal suppression of peaceful protests, and reach a large number of perpetrators of the regime, as was the case in 2011.
Personal sanctions would be effective if they were permanent. If, as in the case of Belarus, the European Union imposed sanctions against several hundred criminals after the dispersal of protests in 2010, and then canceled them in 2016, although the situation in Belarus has not changed, then such measures only contributed to the growth of repression. It so happened that by removing the sanctions from those guilty of repressions, the European Union dropped all charges against them, since the dependent court in Belarus does not even allow initiating proceedings against election fraudsters and punishers from among the security forces, and only the international community can assess the criminal actions of officials ...
A more effective instrument of personal sanctions is the law. This is Magnitsky law, according to which it is not so easy to lift the sanctions against persons in respect of whom this law applies. So far this law has not been applied to those guilty of crimes on the territory of Belarus.
What is important to observe when imposing sanctions?
- Any premature information that sanctions will be imposed, which is not subsequently confirmed, leads to the regime's confidence in its impunity.
- Conditions for lifting sanctions must be realistic and clearly articulated. The conditions that were determined by the EU in 2011 were not met, however, the sanctions were lifted in 2016.
- It is necessary to more strictly monitor the implementation of sanctions and provide for appropriate penalties if they are violated by democratic states. Unfortunately, there are many examples of such violations, and no one has heard of the consequences of such violations.
In the West, they like to talk about the advisability of imposing sanctions against the dictatorship, about their nature and forms, about the fact that too serious sanctions can threaten the independence of Belarus from Russia, but it is the Western sanctions against the enterprises feeding the regime that would moderate the Kremlin's appetites, since this increases risks for businesses, even those loyal to the Russian authorities.
This is evidenced by the cautious attitude of Russian oil companies to oil supplies to Belarus due to US sanctions, and the reduction of such supplies to Naftan and the Mazyr Oil Refinery.
Western sanctions are legally and morally justified, since they are imposed on the basis of gross violations of international obligations by the regime, are aimed at protecting the life and health of people, and freeing the innocent.
The use of tough sanctions against the regime in Belarus could very quickly lead to the release of all political prisoners, and put an end to repressions.
Andrei Sannikov, coordinator of the European Belarus civil campaign, europeanbelarus.org