Two years ago, on November 24, 2011, the Court of Minsk’s Pershamaiski district convicted Ales Bialiatski, the leader of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” and vice-president of the International Federation for Human Rights. According to the verdict, Ales Bialiatski was found guilty of committing a crime under Part 2 of Art. 243 of the Criminal Code (tax evasion on a large scale) and was sentenced to imprisonment in a high security penal colony for a period of 4.5 years and a confiscation of property.
The Human Rights Center “Viasna“, as well as the leading international human rights organizations, viewed the verdict as politically motivated, as it was aimed at sanctioning the legitimate human rights activities of Ales Bialiatski and the Human Rights Center “Viasna” in general.
The sentencing not only contradicts the country’s international obligations in the field of human rights, but also runs counter to the national legislation.
In particular, according to Article 22 of the Law of the Republic of Belarus of December 21, 1991 “On Income Tax from Individuals” and the similar Art. 178 of the country’s Tax Code, the obligation to submit a tax declaration, to indicate certain income and to pay income tax from it arises only if the payer has received taxable income. That is, taxable income should not be declared, and no income tax is paid.
Under subparagraph 2.19 of Art. 153 of the Code and subparagraph 2.19, paragraph 2 of Article 2 of the Law, taxation is not applied to income received in cash by an individual from another person for the performance of his or her instructions on the implementation of any calculation, payment in his or her favor or in favor of third parties for goods (works, services) or for transfer to third parties of received resources and fulfillment of obligations.
This means that if a citizen receives from some foreign organization funds to meet orders of the organization to implement settlements, payments, transfer to third parties or to perform any obligations, such funds are not subject to taxation. This means that there is no obligation to declare and pay taxes from this income.
An assessment of Ales Bialiatski’s criminal case was provided at the international level. The Opinions of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention sent the Government of Belarus contained a decision saying that “the deprivation of liberty of Mr. Aleksandr Viktorovich Bialatski is arbitrary being in contravention of article 20, paragraph 1 of the UDHR and 22 of the ICCPR. The detention falls into category II of the categories applicable to the consideration of the cases submitted to the Working Group.
Consequent upon the Opinion rendered, the Working Group requests the Government to take the necessary steps to remedy the situation of Mr. Bialatski and bring it into conformity with the standards and principles set forth in the UDHR and the ICCPR.
The Working Group emphasises that the adequate remedy is to release Mr. Bialatski and accord him an enforceable right to compensation pursuant to Article 9, paragraph 5 of the ICCPR.
In early November, political prisoner Ales Bialiatski served half of his sentence in penal colony No. 2 in Babruisk and various methods of parole could have been applied to him. However, this did not happen as he had been regularly, even for minor violations, subjected to sanctions.
From the very first day of Ales Bialiatski’s detention, rallies of solidarity with the political prisoner have been held in countries around the world and in Belarus; he has receives thousands of letters of support from all over the planet. International organizations and world-renowned politicians have urged the Belarusian authorities to stop the prosecution of Ales Bialiatski. During his stay in prison, Ales Bialiatski was awarded the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize, the German Petra Kelly Prize, the Freedom Award by the Danish newspaper “Politiken”; he has been twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Even behind bars in Babruisk colony No. 2, Ales Bialiatski has not stopped his activities. He published a book of literary criticism “Asvechanyia Belarushchynai” (“Enlightened by Belarusianness”). Two more books of essays by the imprisoned human rights defender will soon be published.
Colleagues and friends of Ales Bialiatski keep following his laconic slogan “Keep “Viasna!”