Statement: “Viasna” demands immediate and unconditional release of Ales Bialiatski and all political prisoners
by the Human Rights Center "Viasna"
Minsk, August 4, 2013
The Human Rights Center "Viasna" demands the immediate and unconditional release of Ales Bialiatski and all political prisoners in Belarus.
4 August marks two years since the arrest of our friend and colleague, the chairman of the Human Rights Center "Viasna", vice-president of the International Federation for Human Rights, who was sentenced to four and a half years in prison.
The imprisonment of one of the most famous and respected human rights defenders in Belarus was the result of many years of repressive policy of the Belarusian authorities against civil society in the country, and is punishment for the principled long-term human rights advocacy pursued by Ales Bialiatski.
The activities of Ales Bialiatski and the Human Rights Center "Viasna", established by him in 1996, including the financing of the regular activities of the human rights organization, is wholly legitimate and complies with the principles laid down in the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders), and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
This position has been repeatedly confirmed by the Human Rights Council, which unanimously called on all States to ensure that the promotion and protection of human rights is not considered a crime, and that human rights defenders aren't deprived of the opportunity to enjoy the universal human rights relating to their work, both individually and in association with others. This position was reflected in the views of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the Human Rights Council in the case of Ales Bialiatski.
Over the past two years since the date of arrest of Ales Bialiatski, the human rights situation in the country hasn't improved and remains stably bad: at present, 12 political prisoners are kept in jail, the practice of criminal and administrative prosecution of citizens for political reasons continues, while the fundamental civil and political rights are extremely limited.
Imprisonment and the use of other methods of repression for beliefs, social and political activities is an sign of the authorities' inability to build a democratic and pluralistic society, the desire for the destruction of any kind of dissent and a deep crisis of the legal system of the country. In this situation, the persecution of human rights defenders, who provide assistance to victims of human rights violations and criticize the government for such violations, is clear evidence that the authorities are willing to use the most stringent measures to intimidate opponents and society as a whole in order to preserve the existing regime in the country.
The Human Rights Center "Viasna" strongly opposes politically motivated persecution of citizens and calls on the authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all political prisoners and restore them in all civil and political rights.
The Human Rights Center "Viasna" states it will continue its legitimate activities for the protection and encouragement of human rights in Belarus.