BELARUS: With the one year anniversary of theconviction of Ales Bialiatski, Human Rights Centre “Viasna” faces relentlessharassment
Paris-Geneva,November 23, 2012 – One year after Ales Bialiatski's conviction, the Observatoryfor the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of theInternational Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World OrganisationAgainst Torture (OMCT), remains gravely concerned about the arbitrary detentionof the prominent human rights defender and the continuous harassment targetingmembers of the Human Rights Centre “Viasna” and other human rights defenders inthe country.
One year ago, on November24, 2011, the Minsk Pervomaiski District Court sentenced Mr. Ales Bialiatski, President of the HumanRights Centre (HRC) “Viasna” and FIDH Vice-President, to four and a half yearsof imprisonment. The conviction stated that he should serve his sentence under strict regime conditions, have hisproperty seized, including the premises used for Viasna’s offices in his name,and have to pay a fine of 757,526,717 Belarusian Rubles (approximately 70,000Euros). On January 24, 2012, the Minsk City Court confirmed the sentence onappeal, and on February 28, 2012, Ales Bialiatski was transferred to BabruiskPenal Colony No. 2. The Observatory recalls that Mr. Bialiatski was arrested onAugust 4, 2011 by the police representative of the Department of FinancialInvestigations, and charged, on blatantly biased grounds, with “concealment ofprofits on an especially large scale”.
Sincethen, he has been subjected to numerous arbitrary disciplinary sanctions by thefacility's administration including reduction in his monthly allowance andsuppression of visits and care packages. Meanwhile other detainees have beenforbidden to communicate with Mr. Bialiatski, thereby increasing the level ofisolation and psychological pressure put on him.
WhileMr. Bialiatski's conviction targeted his human rights' activities as well as more broadlythat of HRC “Viasna”, at the beginning of July 2012, the Partizanski Court ofMinsk City confirmed the seizure of its offices. OnNovember 17, Ms.Natalia Pinchuk, Ales Bialiatski’s wife,received an official notification informing her that “Viasna” would be evictedfrom the offices on November 26, though it has occupied them for the past 12years.
Oncemore, the Observatory firmly denounces the ongoing harassment and arbitrarydetention of Ales Bialiatski, and is alarmed by the upcoming eviction of HRC “Viasna”, which has been providing crucial assistanceto victims of human rights violations for more than 16 years. It is clear thatthese developments represent one step further in the relentless campaign ofslandering and harassment led by the Belarusian authorities against HRC “Viasna” for the past years.
TheObservatory therefore urges the Belarusian authorities to immediately andunconditionally release Mr. Bialiatski and to refrain from further harassmentsof HRC “Viasna”, as these acts clearlyaim at hampering and sanctioning their legitimate human rights activities.
Moregenerally, the Observatory reiterates its call to the authorities of Belarus toput an end to the ongoing repressive climate targeting human rights defendersand organisations in the country, in line with the United Nations Declaration on Human RightsDefenders, the Universal Declaration of HumanRights and international human rights instruments, all ratified by Belarus.
For more information,please contact:
· FIDH: Audrey Couprie / Arthur Manet: +33 1 43 5525 18
· OMCT:Delphine Reculeau: +41 22 809 49 39