Belarus: Injustice and cruelty of the judiciary in the Viasna case

Ales Bialiatski, Valiantsin Stefanovic and Uladzimir Labkovich at an rally in August 2020. © Viasna

In a report published today, the Observatory, a joint programme of FIDH and the OMCT, exposes the parody of justice that took place during the recent trial of four Viasna members. The elements of the report come, among others, from two covert judicial observation missions conducted by the Observatory in early 2023. The report presents a comprehensive investigation into the cruelty of the Belarusian judiciary towards Viasna’s human rights defenders.

Paris-Geneva, July 12, 2023 – July 14, 2023, marks two years since the arrest, arbitrary detention and prosecution of Ales Bialiatski, winner of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize and chairperson of Human Rights Center Viasna, along with deputy head of Viasna and Vice-President of FIDH Valiantsin Stefanovic and Viasna’s lawyer Uladzimir Labkovich. The three human rights defenders were unjustly charged with fabricated offenses of “smuggling” and “financing group actions that grossly violated public order”.

On this occasion, the Observatory releases a new report following two covert judicial observation missions carried out to observe the trial against these human rights defenders. The report documents the violations committed during the unfair trial, which took place in the Lieninski District Court of Minsk between January 5 and March 3, 2023. Ales Bialiatski, Valiantsin Stefanovic and Uladzimir Labkovich were respectively sentenced to ten, nine and eight years’ imprisonment. Zmitser Salauyou, a Viasna member tried in absentia in the same case, was sentenced to eight years in prison.

“The international and Belarusian observers present in the courtroom were the first witnesses to the parody of justice that took place during this trial,” said Ilya Nuzov, head of FIDH’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia programme. “The sight of the defendants handcuffed and locked up in a metal cage, the refusal to hold the proceedings in Belarusian, the unfounded claims and the subordination of witnesses are just a few examples of the lows to which the authoritarian Belarusian regime is willing to stoop.”

“The serious violations of fundamental rights witnessed during the trial of our colleagues are the culmination of a long-standing process of criminalisation perpetrated by the Belarusian authorities against human rights defenders,” denounced Dziyana Pinchuk, journalist and human rights defender of Viasna. “From the dissolution of our organisation to the heavy sentences imposed on our colleagues, the relentless judicial harassment we have faced has forced the Viasna activists who remain free to continue their work in exile.”

“The prosecution and conviction of our four colleagues from Viasna illustrates a broader pattern of criminalisation and silencing of all human rights organisations and defenders in Belarus,” said Eugenia Andreyuk, the OMCT’s Regional Programme Coordinator on Europe and Central Asia. “We call on the international community to use all available means to put pressure on the Belarusian authorities to respect the rule of law and release all human rights defenders in the country.”

The full report is available in English on the FIDH and OMCT websites.

For more information, please contact:

  • FIDH : Maxime Duriez : +33 6 48 05 91 57 |
  • OMCT : Claire-Marie Germain :

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT and are both members of, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.