The condemnation of Ales Bialiatski illustrates how seriously threatened freedom of association and freedom of expression are in Belarus. Members and partners of the Human Rights House Network call upon Belarusian authorities to immediately release and drop all charges against human rights defender Ales Bialiatski; to fully rehabilitate him and to ensure unhampered activities of human rights and other civil society organizations.
Tuesday, 24 January 2012, by Belarusian Human Rights House in exile
On January 24, the cassation appeal against the verdict of the Pershamaiski District Court of Minsk, of Ales Bialiatski, Head of the Human Rights Centre “Viasna” in Belarus, Vice-president of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and one of the founders of the Belarusian Human Rights House in exile, left the sentence against Ales Bialiatski in force: 4.5 years imprisonment in a higher security colony and confiscation of properties. The latter disregards the fact that all the taxes and penalties imposed on Ales Bialiatski have been fully paid by the time of the appeal hearing.
- On 4 August 2011, Ales Bialiastki was arrested in Minsk. We see Ales Bialiatski’s detention since August 2011 as a direct result of his legitimate activities in defence of human rights in Belarus.
- On 24 November 2011, Ales Bialiatski was sentenced to 4.5 years imprisonment with the confiscation of his property, including the property registered with other persons, on charges of tax evasion.
Today’s verdict is the consequence of the restrictions to the rights of freedom of association and expression imposed in Belarus. As many NGOs in Belarus, “Viasna” was repeatedly denied its registration, a refusal qualified as unfounded by the United Nations Human Rights Committee. Therefore, Ales Bialiastki was forced to develop his human rights activities underground. He was not allowed to associate with others and express his opinions freely.
Today’s verdict validates a sentence in open violation to the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, including the rights, amongst others, to conduct human rights work individually and in association with others, to the lawful exercise of the occupation or profession of human rights defender, and to solicit, receive and utilize resources for the purpose of protecting human rights (including the receipt of funds from abroad).
States have a responsibility to implement and respect all the provisions of the above mentioned Declaration as well as to take all necessary measures to ensure the protection of everyone against any violence, threats, retaliation, adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action resulting from the legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the Declaration.
Ales Bialiatski and his counsel will submit in due time a supervisory appeal to the chairman of the Minsk city court and subsequently to the Supreme Court.
We call upon the Prosecutor General of the Republic of Belarus to immediately drop all charges held against Ales Bialiatski. We also urge Belarusian authorities to fully rehabilitate Ales Bialiatski. We believe that Belarusian authorities have to take all necessary measures to allow human rights defenders to work freely and with no abusive restrictions, including by providing registration to human rights organisations and to stop using the registration of NGOs as a tool to repress critical voices.