November 23, 2012
With the one year anniversary of the conviction of Ales Bialiatski, Human Rights Centre “Viasna” faces relentless harassment
Paris-Geneva, November 23, 2012 - One year after Ales Bialiatski’s conviction, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), remains gravely concerned about the arbitrary detention of the prominent human rights defender and the continuous harassment targeting members of the Human Rights Centre “Viasna” and other human rights defenders in the country.
One year ago, on November 24, 2011, the Minsk Pervomaiski District Court sentenced Mr. Ales Bialiatski, President of the Human Rights Centre (HRC) “Viasna” and FIDH Vice-President, to four and a half years of imprisonment. The conviction stated that he should serve his sentence under strict regime conditions, have his property seized, including the premises used for Viasna’s offices in his name, and have to pay a fine of 757,526,717 Belarusian Rubles (approximately 70,000 Euros). On January 24, 2012, the Minsk City Court confirmed the sentence on appeal, and on February 28, 2012, Ales Bialiatski was transferred to Babruisk Penal Colony No. 2. The Observatory recalls that Mr. Bialiatski was arrested on August 4, 2011 by the police representative of the Department of Financial Investigations, and charged, on blatantly biased grounds, with “concealment of profits on an especially large scale”.
Since then, he has been subjected to numerous arbitrary disciplinary sanctions by the facility’s administration including reduction in his monthly allowance and suppression of visits and care packages. Meanwhile other detainees have been forbidden to communicate with Mr. Bialiatski, thereby increasing the level of isolation and psychological pressure put on him.
While Mr. Bialiatski’s conviction targeted his human rights’ activities as well as more broadly that of HRC “Viasna”, at the beginning of July 2012, the Partizanski Court of Minsk City confirmed the seizure of its offices. On November 17, Ms. Natalia Pinchuk, Ales Bialiatski’s wife, received an official notification informing her that “Viasna” would be evicted from the offices on November 26, though it has occupied them for the past 12 years.
Once more, the Observatory firmly denounces the ongoing harassment and arbitrary detention of Ales Bialiatski, and is alarmed by the upcoming eviction of HRC “Viasna”, which has been providing crucial assistance to victims of human rights violations for more than 16 years. It is clear that these developments represent one step further in the relentless campaign of slandering and harassment led by the Belarusian authorities against HRC “Viasna” for the past years.
The Observatory therefore urges the Belarusian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Bialiatski and to refrain from further harassments of HRC “Viasna”, as these acts clearly aim at hampering and sanctioning their legitimate human rights activities.
More generally, the Observatory reiterates its call to the authorities of Belarus to put an end to the ongoing repressive climate targeting human rights defenders and organisations in the country, in line with the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights instruments, all ratified by Belarus.