Belarusian authorities should immediately free a leading human rights activist, Ales Belyatsky, whom police detained on August 4, 2011, in Minsk on politically motivated allegations of tax evasion, Human Rights Watch said today. The investigation against Belyatsky, who is head of the Belarusian human rights group Viasna and vice-president of the International Federation of Human Rights in Minsk, is a thinly veiled tactic to imprison a prominent human rights defender and should be discontinued, Human Rights Watch said.
At approximately 5:20 p.m. on August 4, financial police dressed in civilian clothing detained Belyatsky on Minsk’s Freedom Square. They told him that he was being detained as part of an investigation into financial crimes and that they had a warrant to search his apartment.
“Belyatsky’s arrest is a clear case of retaliation against him and Viasna for their human rights work,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “It’s the latest in a long series of efforts by the government to crush Belarus’s civil society.”
“In reality what the Belarus authorities are doing to civil society and Belyatsky in particular, amounts to entrapment,” Williamson said. “First they push human rights defenders to work in the margins of the law, deny them capacity to function, then when they seek to continue to work in the only way they can, the authorities use criminal law, pretending that it has nothing to do with their human rights work. Any intelligent observer knows different.”
“Belyatsky’s arrest is yet another sign that the Belarusian government is going back to the darkest days of repression,” Williamson said.
Moscow 5 August 2011
For more information, see http://www.hrw.org/news/2011/08/05/belarus-leading-rights-defender-detained