Name: Ales Bialiatski
Belarusian civil society activist, Ales Bialiatski, was freed from prison on 21 June 2014 after spending almost three years in prison due to his peaceful human rights activities.
At the Organization for Security and Co-operation (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly’s 22nd Annual Session held from 29 June to 3 July 2013, the OSCE Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions called for the release of all political prisoners in Belarus, including Ales Bialiatski. This followed the 21 December 2012 decision by theUnited Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) which found that Mr. Ales Bialiatski had been arbitrarily detained.
Further to this, the WGAD stated 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]” and went on to emphasis the fact that States party to the ICCPR were “not only under a negative obligation not to interfere with the founding of associations or their activities, but also under a positive obligation to ensure and provide […] measures such as facilitating associations’ tasks by public funding or allowing tax exemptions for funding received from outside the country”.
Reason Behind Bars:
Ales Bialiatski has been a tireless activist for human rights and fundamental freedoms in Belarus since 1996, bravely advocating on behalf of victims of political oppression and their families, despite harassment from the Belarusian government. As the founder of one of Belarus' leading human rights organisations, "Viasna", and Vice-President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Bialiatski provided legal and practical support to victims of the government’s on-going crackdown on civic dissent and acted as a key source of information regards human rights violations within Belarus.
As a result of his work, Mr. Bialiatski has been repeatedly subjected to arrests, detentions and other forms of harassment. On 4 August 2011, he was detained on tax evasion charges and in January 2012, the Minsk City Appeal Court confirmed his four and a half year sentence, which was accompanied by exceptionally strict conditions, including the seizure of the Viasna offices. In February 2012, he was transferred to Babruisk Penal colony to serve out his sentence, where he has been denied food packages from friends and family.
Mr. Bialiatski is a victim of arbitrary detention and judicial harassment, with the case against him directly connected to the human rights work of Viasna.
There has been increasing persecution of human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists and political opponents in Belarus since presidential elections in December 2010, with the growing discontent among the people in Belarus made visible through the “silent protests” that took place during the spring and summer of 2011. These protests prompted a crackdown by the Belarusian government including the arrest of Mr Bialiatski. In the aftermath of the Mr Bialiatski’s sentencing by the First Instance Court on 24 November 2011, NGOs in Belarus campaigned to raise funds covering the costs of court expenditures and other alleged damages to state property. Despite the total cost estimated by the state being paid in full, shortly before the appeal hearing, the judges refused to consider any arguments put forward by Mr Bialiatski’s lawyers, insisting instead, that the defendant’s guilt was self-evident.
CIVICUS condemns the sentencing of Ales Bialiatski and calls for his immediate and unconditional release. CIVICUS also calls for the immediate release of other political prisoners in Belarus and for the authorities to stop harassing civil society and to allow human rights defenders to work freely in the country.
In May 2013, Ales Bialiatski was re-elected, in absentia, as Vice-President of FIDH, by the International Board.
On 25 March 2013, Ales Bialiatski was nominated for the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize by over 30 non-governmental organizations in Poland. The Prize is awarded each year by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), in partnership with the Václav Havel Library and the Charta 77 Foundation, and seeks to recognize and “reward outstanding civil society action in the defence of human rights in Europe and beyond.”
In 2011, Ales Bialiatski (alongside Uganda’s Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law) was awarded the Human Rights Defenders Award by the US Department of State. This award recognises “individuals or non-governmental organisations that show exceptional valour and leadership in advocating the protection of human rights and democracy in the face of government repression.”
For More Information:
PA OSCE calls for immediate release of Belarusian political prisoners