Ales Bialiatski: ‘The attitude to human rights activists hasn’t changed since the liquidation of ‘Viasna’ till registration denial to ‘Nasha Viasna’
Belarusian human rights activist ales Bialiatski, vice-president of the International Federation for Human Rights, gives an outline of the situation of human rights defenders in Belarus during the recent years.
- Mr. Ales, six years have passed since the liquidation of Human Rights Center Viasna. Has the attitude of the Belarusian authorities towards human rights activists changed for this time?
- The situation has not changed in any respect. During all this time the Belarusian authorities treated human rights defenders as a hostile grouping, which can be confirmed by many examples. We haven’t seen any human rights organizations obtain the registration in Belarus during this period, though there were enough attempts. Human Rights Center Viasna alone has made three attempts to get the state registration. At the same time, the state continues harassment of certain human rights defenders. They have launched campaigns on their discrediting and financial punishment – tax inspections and other control agencies studied their financial biographies. Administrative punishments are actively used against the human rights defenders who seek to monitor human rights abuses in Belarus. The last year also saw cases of criminal persecution. I mean the administrative cases that were brought against Yana Paliakova from Salihorsk and Leanid Svetsik from Vitsebsk.
Thus, the life of Belarusian human rights defenders still remains quite restless, and the state, pitifully enough, mainly treats the objective criticism nervously and reacts inadequately.
Meanwhile, I’d like to remind that in 1998 the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and the Republic of Belarus also participated in discussion of this document guaranteeing the right of persons, individually or in association with others, to criticize the authorities for human rights violations.
- Taking into account that recently Belarus has been clearly aspiring towards the European community and certain conclusions of the EU will be voiced in September, can we assume any improvement of the authorities’ attitude to human rights defenders and human rights organizations in Belarus?
- In fact, this aspiration towards the European community is quite specifuc. It cannot be considered as the sincere intention of full-scale cooperation that is clearly manifested in many countries with transitive regime. I can mention Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia. First of all, these are Balkan counties that have a real close cooperation with the EU with the view of joining it. The latest example of this cooperation is the visa abolition for Serbia and Macedonia, as a result of which citizens of these countries can freely visit the EU countries. The Belarusian authorities have never had the aim to fully join the EU. At the same time, they would like to receive some economical benefits from such neighborhood by developing economical cooperation. It seems to me that everything hinges on the reluctance of the authorities to adequately react to the criticism of the socio-political situation and the grave human rights abuses that rest on the pseudo-legal legislative system that has been established by the Belarusian regime during the last 10-15 years.
Human rights defenders openly talk about this situation and want to inform Belarusian citizens that normal, mutually beneficial cooperation with the EU can take place only in the case of improvement of the human rights situation, the electoral process and other democratic reforms. Otherwise the European community will not cooperate with a country, whose authorities rig elections and unlawfully retain the power as a result. Neither will the EU completely trust a government that turns a blind eye towards or takes part in reprisals of political opponents. The same concerns the registration of NGOs. The position of the authorities remains clearly unchanged and a number of NGOs and political parties are simply deprived of the opportunity to realize their constitutional rights, obtain the state registration and act legally.
- Do you have any hopes for the last instance – the Supreme Court, that will start hearings on appeal against the non-registration by the Ministry of Justice of the civil human rights association Nasha Viasna?
- The Ministry of Justice has denied Nasha Viasna registration for the third time already during the last two years, and the man who is charged with representation of the ministry’s interests at court is Alexander Kharyton, who is famous for closing tens of NGOs. Besides the fact that these days Souhayr Belhassen, President of the International Federation for Human Rights, was denied Belarusian visa is quite alarming. In fact, I have the feeling that human rights defenders can be left without registration again. On the other hand, we have already stated that we stopped this senseless game with the authorities and it would be our last registration attempt. We will continue working without registration and let the authorities think how to solve this problem.