Human rights defenders

The working environment for human rights defenders in Belarus remains extremely difficult. The civil rights situation deteriorated after the 19 December 2010 presidential elections. Many human rights organisations continue to be denied legal status, with searches and confiscations conducted by the police. Peaceful assemblies are usually banned. These factors consequently lead to the arrest, judicial harassment and sometimes imprisonment of human rights defenders. Ales Bialiatski, President of HRC Viasna, is currently serving a four and a half year sentence since August 2011, in the severe conditions of a working detention camp.

Please see the below articles on the situation of human rights defenders in Belarus:

Solidarity Day with Belarusian civil society : Ales Bialiatski urges people to support civil society in Belarus


August 4, the International Day of Solidarity with Civil Society and Human Rights Movement in Belarus, timed to the anniversary of the arrest of a recent political prisoner human rights activist Ales Bialiatski, is held in different countries of the world.

Conducting this day was initiated in 2012 by a coalition of non-governmental organizations of different countries to show solidarity with civilian forces in Belarus and moral support to human rights defenders and civil society activists, who continue to work in the country.

Solidarity of colleagues and unfamiliar people who supported us with their letters or through public actions, pickets, meetings with embassies and so on, means very much for all political prisoners, including myself“, said Ales Bialiatski in an interview with the ini...

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“Viasna” activists banned from holding August 4 pickets in ten cities

Applications for pickets for release of political prisoners, filed by human rights activists within the framework of the Day of Solidarity with Belarusian civil society, were turned down by the local authorities in Navapolatsk, Vitsebsk, Homel, Mozyr, Rechytsa, Zhodzina, Barysau, Baranavichy, Smarhon and Mahiliou.

As stated by the coordinator of the regional offices of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” Dzmitry Salauyou, the prohibitions have formal grounds and came as no surprise to the applicants. Absence of service contracts with law enforcement agencies, medical service and the public utilities – this reason is stated in refusals to all applications for mass events filed by civil society activists.

These grounds for banning pickets do not comply with the current legislation...

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Recently released human rights activist Ales Bialiatski concludes European tour in Warsaw


Belarusian human rights activist, Ales Bialiatski, visited Warsaw from July 9 to 12 – the final stop in a European tour that has taken him to Vilnius, Brussels, Strasbourg and Paris since his unexpected release under an amnesty on June 21. Bialiatski had served three years of a 4.5 year sentence ontrumped-up charges of tax evasion.

Bialiatski, head of the Minsk-based Human Rights Center “Viasna”, came to Warsaw on the invitation of the Polish Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights and the Stefan Batory Foundation. Here he met with top Polish politicians, including the Head of the President’s Office, Jacek Michalowski, Foreign Affairs Minister Radek Sikorski, as well as former Polish dissident Adam Michnik and other civil society representatives.

During an open meeting at the Batory Foundati...

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Ales Bialiatski’s first visit to Poland after release from jail


“For the three years I spent in prison, I was struck by the fact that many non-political, cultural, linguistic and social initiatives appeared in Belarus. This proves that our civil society develops,” stated Mr. Bialiatski at a meeting in Warsaw. His visit to the Polish capital completes the tour of the Belarusian human rights activist across European countries.

Chairman of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” came to Warsau on invitation of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights and Stefan Batory Foundation. The visit began on Wednesday, July 9, with a closed-door meeting with representatives of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, at which the human rights sector discussed the situation in Belarus. “It was a friendly meeting with representatives of the human rights organization...

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Ales Bialiatski at press conference for Lithuanian media: No hard feelings towards Lithuania


On 27 June in Vilnius, Head of the Human Rights Center “Viasna”, vice-president of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and one of the founders of the Belarusian Human Rights House Ales Bialiatski gave a press conference for the Lithuanian media.

Ales Bialiatski opened the press conference by saying that he wanted to answer in advance the question he would definitely be asked.

“ I don’t have any hard feelings. It was not the Lithuanian but the Belarusian government that put me in jail,” he said.

Bialiatski hopes other political prisoners will also be freed as there are still seven people in Belarus imprisoned for their political views.

Ahead of the press conference, Bialiatski removed a poster saying “Freedom for Ales Bialiatski” off the door of the Vilnius-based Bary...

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Stefanovich: New UN Human Rights commissioner will deal with Belarus


Belarusian human rights activist Valantsin Stefanovich commented on the latest Zeid Al-Hussein’s appointment.

- How could it influence the priority level of the Belarusian issue within the UN that the new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is now a representative of Jordan?

– The level of interest in Belarus should not change this way or another, because there is the procedure, there is a number of commitments, taken by our country. The UN High Commissioner should, first of all, be guided by the Human Rights Declaration, international agreements and covenants, that have been ratified by the member-states. I think there will be no subjectivity. Showing is the example of the UN itself...

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Human rights results of Ice Hockey Championship: Repressive machine shows its power in action


Valiantsin Stefanovich, Deputy Chairman of the Human Rights Center “Viasna”, in his interview for, tells about the human rights results of the Ice Hockey World Championship, which was held in Minsk from 9 to 25 May.

- The Ice Hockey World Championship has just finished in Belarus. Ahead of the event, human rights defenders, and “Viasna” in particular, feared that it would be transformed into an ideological and politicized show by the Belarusian authoritarian regime. Have these fears come true?

– Unfortunately, we can state that our concerns, both about turning the event into a politicized show and the arbitrary preventive arrests, have come true...

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Östgruppen’s Chair Martin Uggla is not allowed to enter Belarus on the eve of 2014 Ice Hockey World Championship


Chair of Swedish human rights organisation Östgruppen Martin Uggla who was going to visit Belarus has been detained in the transit zone of the National Airport “Minsk-2”. The border guards informed him verbally that he is prohibited from entering Belarus.

The border guards advised Uggla to buy a return ticket for today or to wait in a transit zone until Sunday as he already has a return ticket for that date.

In January, Martin wrote in his blog that Belarusian visas and accreditations are not beneficial for the Ice Hockey championship because foreign journalists wishing to receive accreditation to the tournament to be held this year in May would have to cover sport events only...

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Journalist Denied Entry to Belarus with Election Observation Bulletins

On April 20 the journalist for Novy Chas newspaper Hanna Azemsha was stopped at the border point Kamenny Loh: she was made to return to Lithuania and leave there 130 plus 65 copies of informational bulletins about elections observation.

The journalist’s car was searched for several hours on the border point Kamenny Loh. Nothing was seized, but she was told to go back and leave there the bulletins “Eight facts about elections” and “Observer reports”. Only after doing so, the journalist was allowed to move on. Hanna Azemsha is going to file a complaint against such treatment.

On March 14 the same car was already searched by police officers of the Frunzenski district police department of Minsk...

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Court blocks Valiantsin Stefanovich’s complaint against ban on Viasna website


Having appealed against the decision of the Tsentralny District Court, who dismissed a complaint against the actions of the Prosecutor General’s Office, human rights defender Valiantsin Stefanovich has not yet received any reaction, either a notification of the date of consideration or its receipt by the court.

A decision to terminate proceedings in Valiantsin Stefanovich’s claim against Prosecutor General’s Office was issued by the Tsentralny District Court of Minsk on February 18. On February 20, the human rights defender, in the manner and within the period set by the Code, sent a private complaint to the Tsentralny District Court.

According to the terms of procedures, the complaint should have reached the Minsk City Court by March 15...

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