Exile calls for tougher sanctions on Belarus

Fri Feb 22, 2013 1:19pm EST
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By Derek Brooks

VIENNA (Reuters) - Opposition politician Andrei Sannikov, recently released from jail in his native Belarus, urged the international community to impose tougher sanctions on his country to end human rights abuses.

Sannikov, 58, was sentenced to five years in jail last year for taking part in a protest against Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko's re-election, after running against him in 2010 elections. He was Lukashenko´s strongest rival.

"The only language that the dictatorship understands is sanctions," Sannikov, who has been granted political asylum in Britain, said at a conference in Vienna on Friday.

"Whenever there is a softness of the attitude of the international organizations and individual countries, the repression afterwards comes harder."

Western observers from the OSCE intergovernmental organization, at whose conference Sannikov was speaking, considered the election to be fraudulent.

Sannikov called for Belarussian parliamentarians to be ejected from the OSCE´s parliamentary assembly, the only major European international organization that includes the former Soviet republic.

"We should bring up the issue of suspending the membership of Belarus immediately," Sannikov said.

Beyond being removed from the OSCE, Sannikov did not specify what other sanctions should be brought against Belarus.   Continued...

Belarussian dissident Andrei Sannikov listens during an interview with Reuters in London November 1, 2012. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth