Ales Bialiatski, founder of the Belarusian human rights organisation Viasna, is the recipient of the 2014 Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award. His wife, Natalya Pinchuk, and his colleagues of “Viasna” received the prize on his behalf at a official ceremony held on April 4 in Stockholm.
Civil Rights Defenders noted, that for over 30 years, Ales Bialiatski had pursued a life of continuous struggle to campaign for democracy and human rights, first in the Soviet Union and then in Belarus. Ales was arrested on 4 August 2011 and sentenced to 4.5 years in prison for tax evasion in a trial with clear political overtones. Since then he has been imprisoned and prevented from communicating freely with the outside world. Being the head of the country’s leading human rights organisation Viasna Ales Bialiatski is a central figure in Belarusian civil society.
Valiantsin Stefanovich, vice president of HR center Viasna, stated that : “Ales was very modest and never spoke about his international activities as Vice-President of FIDH. Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cuba, Tunisia, Egypt… He did not believe totalitarianism had one colour only. One thing is always common, though: all banners target the human dignity, and Ales always fought against that. He is now paying for the fight he led in Belarus and elsewhere“.
Since the establishment of Viasna in 1996, Ales has been arrested over 20 times. Many of these arrests have been for minor infringements such as handing out copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“The trial of Ales Bialiatski was initiated despite international protests and demands for his release. The process of prosecuting Ales was directly linked to his human rights work and the verdict serves as a warning to the entire Belarusian civil society”, says Robert Hårdh, Director of Civil Rights Defenders.
According to those who have been in contact with him, Ales, maintains his indomniable spirit but is showing signs of deteriorating health. According to Valiantsin Stefanovich, Belarusian prisoners are frequently exposed to torture and degrading treatment.
Ales has previously been honored with several other awards, including the Swedish Per Anger Prize, The Sakharov and Homo Homini prize. He has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize twice, in 2006 and 2007.
Benedicte Berner, Acting Chair of Civil Rights Defenders’ Board, talks about Ales Bialiatski :