LONDON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Belarusians in Exile (“BiE”), a leading human rights pressure group, today calls on the European Union to extend its trade sanctions against Belarus to include Belaruskali and the Belarusian Potash Company (“BPC”), among the world’s largest producers and exporters of potash fertilisers.
The sanctions, which apply to a “black-list” of 242 persons and 30 entities linked to the ruling regime, have been in force since May 2006 and will come up for renewal in October 2013. However, the list currently does not include Belaruskali or BPC, which is the world’s largest exporter of potash fertilisers with a 43% share of the global market and is a joint venture primarily between Belaruskali and Russia’s Uralkali.
Belarusians in Exile, which is campaigning for greater freedom in Belarus, urges stronger EU action based on the independent legal report produced by British law firm, Macfarlanes LLP, which for the first time provides clear evidence that Belaruskali is directly controlled by the Belarus state and the ruling regime. The legal report commissioned by BiE and released today, reveals:
- Belaruskali is currently 100% owned by the Republic of Belarus through a complex web of entities and associations governed and controlled by it
- During the first quarter of 2011, Belaruskali had accrued dividends of approximately BYR 1,237.7 billion (approximately €300 million) and paid dividends of approximately BYR 871.2 billion (approx. €211 million)
- Given Belaruskali’s ownership and the arrangements in respect of dividends, Belaruskali supports and provides substantial revenue to the Belarus state and therefore to the regime of President Alexander Lukashenko
Similarly, commenting on BPC, Macfarlanes finds that ‘[b]ased on the evidence and in particular by virtue of Belaruskali’s right of appointing the General Director (who is hired and dismissed only with the consent of President Lukashenko) … BPC is subject to some level of control by Belaruskali and, arguably, by President Lukashenko directly.’
‘It follows that the argument may be put to the EU Council that, in order to ensure the overall effectiveness of the sanctions’, Belaruskali and BPC ‘should be added to the list of sanctioned entities,’ the report concludes.
Despite the EU sanctions having been in force since May 2006, trade between Belarus and the members of the EU has continued to increase, with the EU being the country’s second largest trading partner after Russia. EU imports from Belarus have increased over the past three years, totalling $17.5 billion in 2012, while Belarus had an $8 billion trade surplus. In addition, the UK is the second-largest investor in Belarus.
Jamison Firestone, a spokesman for Belarusians in Exile, said:
“The current EU restrictive measures and sanctions have proved to be completely ineffective in forcing the Lukashenko regime to provide basic human rights and political freedom. They do not cover the key organisations supporting the regime nor do they have the crippling effect that would be achieved by sectoral embargoes. This report provides irrefutable evidence that Belaruskali and BPC generate substantial revenue for the Lukashenko regime and merit being added to the list of banned entities. The EU needs to send a clear message: change or we will kick where it hurts.”
Minutes of the meeting of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations, dated 7 June 2013, state that the Council: ‘Expresses deep concern at continuing violations of human rights in Belarus, which are of a structural and endemic nature, and also at the systemic and systematic restrictions on human rights, especially in the case of the freedoms of association, of assembly, and of opinion and expression, as well as the guarantees of due process and fair trial, and expresses particular concern at the use of torture and ill-treatment in custody, the lack of response by the Government to cases of enforced disappearance of political opponents, violations of labour rights amounting to forced labour, significant gaps in antidiscrimination legislation, the impunity of perpetrators of human rights violations and abuses, the harassment of civil society organizations, human rights defenders, journalists and political opponents, pressure on defence lawyers, the lack of participation of opposition political parties in Parliament...’
About Belarusians in Exile
Belarusians in Exile is an international non-governmental membership organization aimed at promoting and supporting the pro-democratic movement and free elections in Belarus. Belarusians in Exile collaborates with, and supports, partner-organizations in Belarus and around the world, and works with institutions and government agencies to help increase pressure on the regime of Alexander Lukashenko.
The mission of Belarusians in Exile is to support, promote and protect democracy in Belarus by engendering free and democratic elections and the release and political rehabilitation of political prisoners.