Ales Bialiatski – one year without justice
A year ago Belarusian human rights defender Ales Bialiatski, chairman of the Minsk-based “Viasna” human rights center and the vice-president of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), was jailed on politically motivated charges. Belarusian and international NGOs demand to release him immediately and unconditionally, and to drop all charges against him.
Saturday, 04 August 2012, by HRH London, based on Index of Censorship, Human Rights Centre "Viasna", Human Rights Watch and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
4 August 2012 is the first anniversary of the arrest of Ales Bialiatski, one of the best known human rights activists in Belarus, who is currently serving a four-and-a-half year prison sentence in Babruisk, Mahiliou region.
Arrested one year ago
He was arrested in August 2011 and sentenced on tax-evasion charges that have been condemned as politically motivated. The charges against him stemmed from his alleged use of personal accounts in Lithuania and Poland to receive funding from international donors for rights activities in Belarus.
All assets of Bialiatski were confiscated. Bialiatski has pleaded not guilty but was convicted to 4.5 years of imprisonment. He has appealed against the sentence but all his appeals were rejected.
Petition demanding release of activist passed
On 3 August representatives of democratic NGOs, civil activists and human rights defenders of Belarus paid a visit to the Presidential Administration to pass the petition demanding an immediate and unconditional release of Ales Bialiatski and all political prisoners and cessation of pressurization on human rights and civil society organisations of the country, spring96.org reports.
The petition was passed on the eve of the International Day of Solidarity with the Civil Society of Belarus which is marked on 4 August for the first time.
The delegation consisted of members of the Human Right Center “Viasna”, the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, the Center for Human Rights and other human rights organisations, the Belarusian Association of Journalists and opposition politician Aliaksandr Milinkevich.
The members of “Viasna” also called on representatives of international and Belarusian human rights organisations to hold actions of solidarity with Ales Bialiatski.
Authorities afraid of protests supporting Bialiatski
It appears that the authorities are still afraid of the man they imprisoned. The Barysau District Executive Committee prohibited the local human rights defenders to hold a picket under the slogan “Freedom to Ales Bialiatski!” near one of large department stores in Barysau on 4 August.
The organisers applied to the Barysau District Police Department, the district hospital and the communal services in order to conclude agreements for guarding the action, providing medical assistance to its participants and cleaning the territory after its end, respectively.
All three gave the same answer: “We cannot conclude an agreement with you due to your failure to implement the requirements of Article 5 of the Law of the Republic of Belarus of 30 December 1997 ’About mass events in the Republic of Belarus’”.
The executive committee gave the same explanation for its prohibition, without providing any details. Authorities in at least five regions of Belarus have denied permission to organise demonstrations, offering arbitrary justifications.
Belarusians can not protest, but you can!
London-based free speech organisation Index on Censorship calls to Index on Censorship, Free Word Centre, Arvon, Booktrust, Article 19, English Pen and the Reading Agency stand together to support Ales Bialiatskitake action of solidarity with Ales Bialiatski.
The organisation encourages sending a postcard or a letter of support to the Belarusian human rights defender. You can find the prison’s address here.
Human Rights Watch informs that Bialiatski’s colleagues at “Viasna” say the staff at Correction Facility #2 in Babruisk, where he is being held, regularly subjects Bialiatski to psychological pressure. The staff prohibits other detainees from talking to Bialiatski or showing him support.
“Viasna” colleagues also said that staff restricts Bialiatski’s mealtimes, meetings with relatives, and permission to receive parcels from his friends and family members, ostensibly as punishment for violating rules.
Last year “crossed out” of wife's life
Bialiatski’s wife, Natallia Pinchuk, says that she knows little about his life in jail.
“I received a letter from him last week”, she says. “Ales reminisces about events of the past and thinks of his friends and family. But there is nothing about his present condition. He just says he is alright. Anything more would give the prison censors an excuse to ban the letter”.
Natallia says that the last year has been “crossed out” of her life. “At first I tried hard to accept the fact that he is behind bars and attempted to adapt myself to the situation. But it is really impossible to get used to this”.
Tatsiana Raviaka, a “Viasna” colleague, explains that Ales is in prison for all human rights movement activists of Belarus.
“I remember exactly what he told me when the police detained him a year ago: ‘Keep Viasna going!’ His words still ring out for all of us here. We keep on with our work. They can’t stop us. They can’t stop what Ales believes in even when he is behind bars”, she said.
Ales Bialiatski, 50, launched the Human Rights Center “Viasna” in 1996. Since then it has grown into the leading human rights organisation in Belarus and has provided help to hundreds of its citizens, including political prisoners, their families and others oppressed by the state. The authorities withdrew the official registration of “Viasna” in 2003, but Bialatski and his colleagues continued their work.
He has been elected vice-president of the International Federation for Human Rights and has been nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize, most recently in 2011. He is the recipient of numerous international human rights awards.
In June, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on Belarus urging the government to free all political prisoners immediately and unconditionally and “to put an immediate end to arbitrary detention of human rights defenders”. The resolution expressed “grave concern” about systematic human rights violations and appointed a UN expert to document and report back to the council on violations in Belarus.
HRH London, based on Index of Censorship, Human Rights Centre "Viasna", Human Rights Watch and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.