Recap of the Third Belarusian Human Rights Defenders Forum in Vilnius by FIDH

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The meeting, which took place on 26 and 27 October 2013, was organised by leading Belarusian Human rights groups [1], with the support of international organisations, including FIDH.

The Forum was opened by Taciana Reviaka, Belarusian Human Rights House President and HRC Viasna board member, and FIDH President, Karim Lahidji. In his welcome speech, Karim Lahidji recalled the history of FIDH’s cooperation with the Belarusian human rights community. He reiterated FIDHs support for Belarusian civil society and recalled the detention of prominent defender and HRC Viasna President, Ales Bialiatski, in a penal colony in Bobruisk since 2011. Bialiatski, who initiated the first Forum in the series back in 2004, was recently re-elected as vice-president of FIDH. An empty chair was left for Ales for the duration of the forum.

This Forum was an opportunity for some 25 national and local organisations working on a wide range of human rights issues to discuss the human rights situation prevailing in the country. Participants represented organisations taking both a general human rights approach, as well as those with a more specific focus, such as the rights of persons with disability, LBGT rights and environmental rights. Proposals for methodology and specific means of strengthening mobilisation in the face of the crackdown led by the authorities since December 2010 were discussed. A number of workshops were organized over the weekend to identify issues and problems in need of a common position and the taking of steps for future joint actions and activities. A key issue agreed upon was the need for continuing mobilisation to support the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus.

 Belarus-HR-Forum-Lahidji     belarusian human rights forum

Unfortunately, a deplorable incident occured only a few hours ahead of this gathering, when on 25 October, dozens of Belarusian special forces members video-taped the faces of those human rights defenders taking the train to Vilnius to participate in the Forum. FIDH considers this gesture to constitute yet another means of exerting psychological pressure on members of Belarusian civil society.

This Forum was the first to be organized since the government-sponsored crackdown following the night of the presidential elections of 19 December 2010. The first forum took place in Minsk in 2004, with the second also having to be held abroad, in Lithuania, in September 2010.

 [1]  Human Rights Center “Viasna”, the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, The Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House, the Legal Transformation Center, the Belarusian Association of Journalists, the Committee to protect the repressed “Salidarnasc”, the Belarusian Documentation Centre and the Assembly of Belarusian Pro-Democratic NGOs

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