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The EU's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, talks to reporters in Brussels on January 23.
BRUSSELS -- The European Union's foreign ministers today agreed to widen the scope of the 27-member bloc's sanction regime against Belarus.

The move allows Brussels to freeze assets and impose visa bans on individuals who are responsible for serious human rights violations.

It also includes those guilty of repression against the country's civil society and political opposition, and those who benefit from or support President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's regime financially.

The EU has already put more than 200 individuals, as well as three companies, on its sanctions list due to their involvement in the crackdown that followed the flawed presidential election in December 2010.

No new names have been added under the new criteria but a "substantial" number can be added in the coming weeks and months.
A Tajik bride (file photo)
At least 16 cases of underage girls being forced into marriage have been reported in Tajikistan’s southern Khatlon province.

Tajik parliamentary deputy Saodat Amirshoeva told RFE/RL's Tajik Service that some parents forge the documents of their daughters in order to make it appear that the girls are 18 years old and eligible for marriage.

Local authorities have obliged religious clerics to report on all Islamic wedding procedures held on a weekly basis.

The clerics are not allowed to hold a wedding ceremony in a mosque for couples who do not have official documents proving the registration of their marriage.

with additional agency reporting

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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