American lawyers released an expert declaration in the case of Belarusian human rights activist Ales Bialiatski.The American Bar Association (ABA) submitted the Expert’s Declaration as an objective legally supported and truthful expert statement based on the case materials and in accordance with international legal standards. The ABA plans to file the copy of the Declaration to the Minsk City Court, which will hear a cassation appeal against the conviction of Bialiatski. “The imposition of a prison term upon Ales Bialiatski for failing to pay personal income tax on funds raised on behalf of his organization is a violation of Article 22 ICCPR. While Belarus has a legitimate interest in taxing Mr. Bialiatski’s personal income, the decision to hold him personally liable for taxes on the association’s income constitutes an undue restriction on his freedom of association. The ICCPR requires that such restrictions be necessary in, inter alia, the interests of national security in a democratic society and proportionate to any legitimate governmental interest. Belarus has failed to show that the penalty imposed in this case is necessary in a democratic society and proportionate to the alleged governmental interest. The Court of Appeals should reverse and remand the decision for analysis of a proper penalty consistent with Belarus’ obligations under international law,” the Expert’s Declaration states. The ABA concludes that conviction of Bialiatski is a result of an illegal order to dissolve his human right centre. The ruling against him violates his right to freedom of association under the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights to which the Republic of Belarus is a signatory (ICCPR) and should be reversed. The ABA is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world and the leading organization of legal professionals in the United States. Its nearly 400,000 members come from each of the fifty states and other jurisdictions. Membership includes attorneys in private practice, government service, corporate law departments, and public interest organizations, as well as legislators, judges, law professors, law students, and non-lawyer associates in related fields.
This website was created after the arrest of Ales Bialitaski, as an information portal about the struggle of Belarusian civil society, what has been done at the international level to end its harassment and what more can be done.
Human rights defenders and civil society in Belarus are subjected to harsh conditions. As a result, their plight has often been in the international spotlight, particularly in December 2010, when popular protest overs the 2010 Presidential elections was crushed by the State. Many people were arrested, harassed and beaten.
Arrested by the Belarusian authorities on grounds of “serious tax evasion” on August 4, 2011, Ales Bialiatski was subsequently condemned for his human rights activities. Ales Bialiatski is Vice-President of FIDH and President of the Belarus-based Human Rights Centre “Viasna”. Bialiatski’s case has become symbolic of the constant persecution that human rights defenders and representatives of civil society in Belarus as a whole are subjected to by the government.