Sacha Koulaeva: Ales’ release is a sign of hope for human rights defenders facing repression in other countries
On June 23,Sacha Koulaeva,Head of Eastern Europe and Central Asia Desk of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH),came to Minsk to congratulate FIDH vice-president Ales Bialiatski on hisrelease on behalf of his colleagues from all around the world.
“Of course, it’s a very happy day. A happy day for me personally, for all of us, for the tens, hundreds of people around the world – those who fought for this release, and there were a lot of such people. This is a great celebration for people in all countries of Latin America, Asia, Africa, certainly in our region, in Eastern Europe, Central Asia... But apart from that celebration feeling, we all have a feeling of bitterness – from the fact that Ales was in prison for nearly three years, which should have never happened. I completely agree with what Ales said during his press conference: it feels bitter, too, because the overall situation has not changed. Though we are infinitely happy that he was released and is again with us, but we remember about all those who remain in detention, and that this risk in Belarus is still there for all those involved in human rights and opposition activities,” said Sacha Koulaeva.
The FIDH representative also stressed that the release of Ales Bialiatski was something that many have sought, and to everyone’s joy this release came a year and a half ahead of schedule, which it due to the mobilization of the international community. “The United States, the European Union, people from all around the world worked hard for it. And I think it’s still a victory. I’m sure this feeling is shared by many.”
Throughout Ales Bialiatski’simprisonment, FIDH made great efforts not only to release its vice-president, but also to support the Belarusian civil society in general, to establish contacts with its various representatives. According to Sacha Koulaeva, FIDH will continue to develop the Belarusian direction.
“Without a doubt, the work in this direction will be greater than before, because now we have Ales, and his energy, courage and persistency will give us all more strength and hope.”She views Ales Bialiatski’s releaseas a sign of hope, not only for Belarus, but also for other repressive societies. “His release is also a great sign of hope that shows that we should not give up,that our efforts, though they sometimes seem hopeless,do bear fruit. And I think that this isalso perceived as a sign of hope by those who remain in prisons in Belarus and by the human rights defenders who continue to face repression in other countries... These days, we have seen people phoneand congratulate – not only Ales, but also each other – on his release. I think this says a lot. It gives courage, it gives power...
There is still very much work to do on human rights in Belarus, and it certainly will continue thanks to the contacts that have been establishedin recent years and the work that has been done, and really much has been done... And it is a positive factor, despite the total tragedy of the situation, that these contacts have become stronger. Solidarity at both national and regional, international levelshas been strengthened. And I very much hope that this solidarity will continue to be manifested.”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna” has been a member of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH, headquartered in Paris) since 2004. In 2007, Ales Bialiatski became the first FIDH vice-president from Eastern Europe and has been twice (in 2010 and 2013) re-elected to this post.