Strasbourg, 24.11.2011 – The Pervomaiski District Court of Minsk sentenced today human rights defender Ales Bialiatski to four and a half years of imprisonment under strict regime conditions, the confiscation of property and a fine for “concealment of profits on an especially large scale in pursuance of prior agreements” under Article 243, part 2, of the Belarus Criminal Code.
“We consider that the trial and detention of Mr Bialiatski, held since 4 August 2011, amounts to judicial harassment of a human rights defender for carrying out legitimate human rights activities, protected under all international human rights instruments” stressed Mr Andres Herkel (Estonia, EPP) and Ms Marieluise Beck (Germany, ALDE), PACE rapporteurs on Belarus, reacting to the sentence.
Article 193.1 of the Criminal Code criminalises activities performed by non-registered organisations, which have no other choice than open a bank account abroad to fund their human rights activities, including the assistance to the victims of political repression. As also stressed by the Venice Commission in a recent opinion* an “arbitrary use of the existing legal framework to criminalise civil society efforts in trying to have an impact on its own conditions and future is unacceptable from the standpoint of democratic principles and human rights.”
The rapporteurs called upon the Belarusian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release him, guarantee in all circumstances his physical and psychological integrity, and stop any kind of harassment against human rights defenders.
* European commission for democracy through law, Opinion on the compatibility with universal human rights standards of article 193-1 of the criminal code on the rights of non-registered associations of the Republic of Belarus adopted by the Venice Commission at its 88th plenary session, Venice (14-15 October 2011).