Head of Östgruppen: in the end, justice will prevail in Belarus
issue of human rights in Belarus remains the focus of attention not
only of the Belarusian human rights activists, but also of foreign
human rights organizations. A great work on the dissemination of
information on human rights in Belarus, solidarity actions and many
other directions of activity is done by the Swedish human rights
organization Östgruppen. This is stated by the head of the
organization, Martin Uggla.
M. U.: This spring, we were actively working on issues related to Belarus. We held quite a large campaign against the holding of the World Championship in Minsk in 2014. On the one hand, the company failed – the International Ice Hockey Federation decided to hold the championship in Belarus. But we managed to raise the question about the issue of human rights in Belarus. And this information is very important for the Swedes.
J.: Do you do deal with the issue of political prisoners in Belarus and Ales Bialiatski in particular?
M. U.: Of course, it is a very difficult situation. We are constantly trying to remind that Ales Bialiatski is still behind bars. We regularly demand that our politicians and the EU politicians set requirements for the release of Ales Bialiatski and all political prisoners. In recent years, particularly since December 2010, the Swedish population has received more information about Belarus and the events that take place there. Information about the situation in Belarus was also spread due to a scandalous situation at the hockey championship in Sweden, at which white-red-white flags were banned.
J.: Who organized the rally in Sweden in support of the white-red-white flag?
M. U.: It was done by the Swedish Initiative Info-Belarus. It was joined by many Belarusians who live in Stockholm. It was a very successful event. The result of this was that the use of the white-red-white flag was allowed at all future matches.
J.: How such situation with the national flag could happen in Sweden?
M. U.: The official Belarusian delegation demanded that the fans with white-red-white flags be expelled from the match. Swedish organizers didn't understand the situation well enough and agreed to it. Of course, this is a disgraceful decision. The organizers didn't want the championship to be politicized, but that's what they did by their decision.
As for the Ice Hockey World Championship in Belarus, we will try to inform the Swedish hockey players and fans, so that they know which country they will go to, and that there is some risk that they can be used in the political interests of the regime.
I note that Östgruppen intends to continue to attract the attention of Swedes to the situation in Belarus. The cooperation with the Belarusian human rights activists in this direction is very important for us. We believe that this is a very important matter. I'm an optimist. And I think that justice will prevail in the end.
Martin Uggla is banned entry to Belarus. For the last few years, the Swedish defender has been denied the Belarusian visa.