AkademikerPension, Gentofte, Denmark, is to exclude nine new countries from its investments due to concerns over human rights violations, starting April 1.
The pension fund will divest about 615 million Danish kroner ($98 million) in assets.
Exposures to Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Iraq, Mali, Pakistan and Zimbabwe will be divested by April 16, a news release said. The new exclusions bring AkademikerPension's list to 45 countries.
"It is probably not terribly surprising with the new countries when you think about how it is to respect human rights," Jens Munch Holst, director, said in the release.
Government bonds and private companies that are more than 50% state owned are to be sold. The pension fund may keep and make new investments in private companies where the state owns less than 50% of the firm.
The Belarus exclusion was singled out by the pension fund for its "systematic violation of human rights," a translation of a news release on the fund's website said, where peaceful protesters are arrested and subjected to violence.
"We only invest in those countries that are rated at a certain level in relation to human rights," Mr. Holst said.
A spokesman said the exclusion of Belarus relates to about 74 million kroner in divestments.
However, AkademikerPension does not include Russia, Egypt or the UAE in its exclusions. Questioning why these countries have not also been excluded is "rightly" asked, but presents executives with a dilemma, Mr. Holst said.
"The mentioned countries are candidates for exclusion from a responsibility perspective, but we must also act financially sound. So we are not comfortable with that in terms of investment at the moment. Every time we exclude a country, there is one that is almost as bad next to it. Should we then also exclude that country? For right next to it, there is a third country, which is almost as bad. That is the challenge when we are dealing with exclusion," he said.
Executives try to exclude "the worst of the worst when it comes to human rights violations" and to be transparent about compromises to protect retirement benefits.
The 128 billion kroner pension fund will reinvest the assets into its other emerging markets debt exposures, the spokesman added.