2 years after his arrest, Ales Bialiatski, Vice President of FIDH and President of Human rights center Viasna, is still behind bars, as are 11 other political prisoners whose rights he was defending right up to his very last day of freedom.
August 4, 2013 marks the second anniversary of his arrest.
In spite of his situation, including the forced daily work together with his fellow prisoners in the Babruisk Penal Colony, Ales refuses to remain silent:
Ales’ conditions of detention are harsh. His fellow prisoners are not allowed to talk to him. For spurious reasons, his wife has been forbidden to visit him since December 2012 and he is regularly deprived of his right to food parcels, although the food that is given to prisoners is extremely limited. It has been months since he has seen any fresh fruit or vegetables. His health is deteriorating due to this.
During its session on November 23, 2012, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) found the detention of Ales Bialiastki to be “arbitrary” and called for compensation. “The adequate remedy is to release Mr. Bialatski and accord him an enforceable right to compensation”, the decision states.
However, the sole response of the Belarus authorities was their stated refusal to cooperate with this United Nations organism: “Belarus sees no reason for further cooperation with the Working Group in its present form”, said the official delegation of the Republic of Belarus in its speech during the 22th session of the UN Human Rights Council, which took place in March.
Regular, large-scale repression of civil society continues. In the spring, FIDH and Viasna presented a document highlighting repression that regularly targets political prisoners in their place of detention or former political prisoners and human rights defenders after their release.
The materials collected present indisputable proof that the regime, which hands down strict punishments for robust displays of dissent, has not only failed to change its policy, but doesn’t find it sufficient,
– said Souhayr Belhassen, then FIDH President.
“People who have been deprived of their freedom continue to be targets of persecution, and those who have been released remain hostage to the authorities, risking being put back behind barbed wire at any minute. The authorities seek to use the lives and freedom of activists for political bargaining and to prevent these activists from returning to a normal life in the event that they are released,” she concluded.
Despite a huge smear campaign by the Belarusian authorities attempting to present Ales Bialiatski as a common law criminal, his fight and his fate have not left the world indifferent.
Ales has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, the Vaclav Havel Prize of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and has been awarded several prestigious distinctions and awards, including the Lech Walesa Award for peace, cooperation between nations, for freedom and respect for basic human rights, the Petra Kelly Prize and the US Department of State’s Human Rights Defenders Prize.
In May 2013, FIDH member leagues from every region in the world re-elected also Ales Bialiatski as Vice-President, sending a strong message of solidarity and support for their colleague:
On July 22, during the visit to Brussels of Vladimir Makey, Belarus Foreign Affairs Minister, whose entry ban had been lifted by the European Union, FIDH held a demonstration calling for the release and rehabilitation of political prisoners and for sustainable progress on human rights to remain the crucial condition for a return to political dialogue between the EU and Belarus.
As the two year anniversary of Ales’ imprisonment approaches, FIDH is launching a mobilization campaign in the social media:
Last year, 4th August was proclaimed International Day of Solidarity with the Civil Society of Belarus. Join the campaign to support Ales and the civil society in Belarus by spreading the information around you via Twitter @freeales and @soli-days and use the hashtag #freeales.
We call for the immediate release of Ales Bialiatski, President of the Human Rights Centre “Viasna” and FIDH Vice-President! The international community must not give in to a regime that toys with its citizens’ life and freedom. It must join us in demanding the release of Ales Bialiatski and all political prisoners in Belarus!