31 August 2011

Royal Bank of Scotland pulls out of country thanks to campaign


Leading opposition member Andrei Sannikov was given a five-year jail sentence for organising and participating in a rally against the re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko
Leading opposition member Andrei Sannikov was given a five-year jail sentence for organising and participating in a rally against the re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko
Index
The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has announced that it will no longer engage in "any type of capital-raising" on behalf of the government of Belarus after an Index on Censorship and Free Belarus Now campaign.

After Index and Free Belarus Now highlighted concerns to the bank about human rights abuses in Belarus at a meeting in Edinburgh last week, the bank made a public statement declaring that it will no longer sell Belarusian government bonds.

"Given sanctions, the deteriorating political situation in Belarus and the fact that it has reneged on key elements of the IMF [International Monetary Fund] programme, RBS has ceased any type of capital-raising for or on behalf of the Belarus Republic and we have no plans to change that position until these issues have been resolved.

"In assessing where we do business, we have a responsibility to consider a number of factors, including social and ethical issues and compliance with the letter and spirit of all international sanctions," RBS added.

Index's Mike Harris, who attended the meeting with the bank, said, "RBS has sent a clear signal not to risk investing in a regime that violates fundamental human rights and may not last."

Over the past year, RBS and other leading banks have been involved in raising money for Belarus - even after the post-election crackdown, in which seven of the nine presidential candidates were arrested and 43 political prisoners were held, including several journalists.

Index on Censorship and Free Belarus Now are continuing to put pressure on the three remaining banks involved, as well as the IMF, which is currently considering bailing out the troubled country.

Countries, such as the U.S., have imposed sanctions because of President Alexander Lukashenko's crackdown on the opposition.

According to news reports, the sanctions come at a time when Belarus is struggling to overcome a balance-of-payments crisis that has forced it to devalue its ruble and allow price hikes that have angered consumers and led to a wave of protests.

Sign Index's petition and join hundreds of others in demanding that world leaders call for immediate action against rights violations in Belarus.

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