The U.K. announced sanctions on Dec. 8 against 17 members of the Belarusian judiciary, including judges, prosecutors, and an investigator, for their involvement in politically-motivated cases.
The sanctioned individuals had been involved in cases against "political activists, independent journalists, and human rights defenders."
Belarus is known for being a dangerous country for journalists, ranked 157th out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index.
According to The World Justice Project's Rule of Law Index, Belarus ranked 104th out of 142 countries. It was also the second lowest in Europe after Russia.
Long a repressive country, the rule of law in Belarus dramatically decreased after a fraudulent presidential election in 2020, in which Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko flagrantly rigged the results in order to stay in power. He then brutally cracked down on the subsequent protests.
Russian forces used Belarus to launch the initial offensive of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022 and have used Belarusian territory to attack Ukraine with drones and missiles.
The Belarusian military has not officially joined Russia's war against Ukraine. It has nonetheless routinely conducted military exercises during the war, as well as engaging in aggressive actions that antagonize its neighbors, such as sending Belarusian helicopters into Polish airspace on Aug. 1.