Joint Open Letter to the Prosecutor General of the City of Minsk to Release Ales Bialiatski

To:
Nikolai Nikolaevich Kulik, Prosecutor General of the City of Minsk

Copied: Division of Preliminary Investigations in the Department of Financial Investigation for the Minsk District and the city of Minsk

Dear Mr. Kulik,

We are a coalition of international nongovernmental human rights organizations that are deeply concerned about the August 4 arrest of Ales Belyatsky on allegations of large-scale tax evasion, under article 243, part 2 of the Belarusian Criminal Code. We are writing to urge that Belyatsky be released from custody on his own recognizance pending the investigation against him.

Belyatsky is head of the human rights group Viasna and vice-president of the International Federation of Human Rights. His arrest appears to stem from the use of his personal bank account in Lithuania to support human rights work in Belarus. We note, though, that Belarusian authorities have refused to register on a national level all but one of the independent human rights organizations in the country. As a result, unregistered groups like Viasna cannot open a bank account in the organization’s name in Belarus or meet terms set out in financial regulations.

We believe the authorities in Belarus have driven organizations like Viasna to the margins of the law, making it impossible for them operate, and then use the threat of criminal sanctions to intimidate human rights defenders. For this reason, we believe that the criminal investigation against Belyatsky is politically motivated and that he should be unconditionally released and the investigation should be dropped.

However until such a decision is made, we ask that he be immediately released on his own recognizance while the investigation is pending.

Thank you for your attention to this letter.

Robert Hårdh,
Executive Director
Civil Rights Defenders
Norwegian Helsinki Committee
Bjørn Engesland, Secretary general

Florian Irminger
Head of International Advocacy
Human Rights House Foundation

Anna Gerasimova
Director
Belarusian Human Rights House

David Kramer
President
Freedom House

Mary Lawlor
Director
Front Line Defenders

Hugh Williamson
Executive Director
Europe and Central Asia Division
Human Rights Watch

Antoine Bernard
Chief Executive Officer
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
(On behalf of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders)

Eric Sottas,
Secretary General
World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
(On behalf of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders)

25 August 2011

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