January 25, 2012 – Andres Herkel, the rapporteur for Belarus in the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE), painted a bleak picture of the situation in Belarus while presenting his report at PACE’s winter session in Strasbourg.The Estonian MP said that Belarus was always high on the agenda of the PACE Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy, although the Committee’s members had already grown tired of bad news from the country. Mr. Herkel said that he had been denied an opportunity to visit Belarus and meet with imprisoned opposition politicians Andrey Sannikaw, Mikalay Statkevich and Zmitser Dashkevich and convicted human rights defender Ales Bialiatski. According to the rapporteur, his report is based on information provided by Belarusian human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists. The situation regarding human rights and basic freedoms has been constantly deteriorating in Belarus, Mr. Herkel noted. The centerpiece of his report was a demand that the Belarusian authorities release and fully exonerate their imprisoned political opponents and a call for the Council of Europe to act in accordance with the European Union’s sanctions against Belarusian government officials and other people involved in the crackdown on the opposition camp and civil society. He denied that the sanctions could by any means affect ordinary Belarusians. Noting that Belarus would hold parliamentary elections later this year, Mr. Herkel said that a free and fair vote was unlikely. Many people in Belarus share the opinion, he added. Mr. Herkel’s report was followed by a speech by Marieluise Beck, rapporteur of the PACE Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, who highlighted the issue of the death penalty in Belarus. She called on PACE to reiterate its call for Belarus to abolish capital punishment.
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.