Monsieur le Ministre d’État,
The Human Rights situation in Belarus has deteriorated considerably following the December 19, 2010 presidential elections, with in particular increased repression against members of the political opposition and human rights defenders.
We are particularly concerned at the arrest of Aliaksandr Bialiatski, a Belarus human rights defender, not merely owing to his status as a Vice President of FIDH, a member organisation of CNCDH, but also because of the circumstances of his arrest and their implications for the continued activity of Viasna, the Belarus Human Rights centre of which he is President. What is at stake is the ability of Viasna to continue to act in the future as an independent NGO.
Aliaksandr Bialiatski was arrested on August 4 last, charged with alleged “tax evasion on a very large scale”. He has since been subjected to arbitrary detention and judicial harassment owing to his activities in Viasna, which is very active in Belarus in providing first-hand information on the Human Rights situation and in giving assistance to the victims of repression. The only reason for his arrest was his action in the defence of Human Rights; this is a violation of the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998.
Numerous organisations and States have reacted to his arrest, including the present OSCE President, the President of the European Parliament, the Union’s High Representative for foreign affairs and security policy, and very recently, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights.
CNCDH members have taken due note of your statement on Belarus on August 16 last, calling for “the release of all political prisoners, including the three candidates for the presidency who are still detained, as a prerequisite for any resumption of a constructive dialogue”, and we appreciated the concern expressed by the Quai d’Orsay spokesman when Mr Bialiatski was arrested.
It would appear necessary, however, that France should mobilise more on this issue, by calling clearly, specifically and publicly for the immediate and unconditional release of Aliaksandr Bialiatski. France should bring to bear all possible diplomatic leverage at all levels, bilateral, European – in line with the Union’s Guidelines on human rights defenders – and international.
The presentation of the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation in Belarus on September 20 next before the UN Human Rights Council, and the annual meeting on the implementation of the OSCE human dimension commitments from September 26 to October 7 2011 in Warsaw, provide in that respect decisive opportunities for giving full rein to the French commitment to work for the protection of Aliaksandr Bialiatski in particular and human rights defenders in Belarus in general. France should also make sure that financial assistance provided to Belarus by the international financial institutions does not de facto mean support for a regime that has cornered itself in an impasse. It is also important to follow up the implementation of all of the OSCE rapporteur’s recommendations concerning Belarus in the framework of the Moscow human dimension mechanism.
Strong mobilisation on the part of France on this issue would be fully in line with the priority it intends to give, in its foreign policy and diplomatic action, to the protection of human rights defenders.