#FreeViasna: Thousands speak out in support of imprisoned human rights defenders Photo
Numerous events were held yesterday in a dozen European countries to mark the launch of #FreeViasna, the international campaign of solidarity with imprisoned human rights activists of Viasna.
Thousands staged pickets in France, Finland, Norway, Lithuania, Poland, Austria, Georgia, Ukraine, and other countries to express their support for Ales Bialiatski, Valiantsin Stefanovich, Uladzimir Labkovich, Marfa Rabkova, Leanid Sudalenka, Tatsiana Lasitsa and Leanid Chapiuk.
The event in Paris was organized by Amnesty International France and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). The speakers included Jean-Luc Romero-Michel, Deputy Mayor of Paris in charge of human rights, integration and the fight against discrimination, Amnesty International France Director Sylvie Brigot, International Advocacy Director at FIDH Antoine Madelin, head of FIDH’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia Desk Director Ilya Nuzov and human rights activist Sacha Koulaeva.
“International scrutiny would not have been possible without Viasna. The UN, the EU and other international organizations knew what was happening in Belarus, because their colleagues from Viasna took the risks and now they are paying for it,” Sacha Koulaeva said during the event.
Video addresses supporting the human rights defenders and demanding their release were recorded by Martin Uggla, chairman of Östgruppen – Swedish Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights, Anders Pettersson, Executive Director of Civil Rights Defenders, Maria Dahle, director of the Human Rights House Foundation, Iryna Ivanchenko, communication manager at the Human Rights Center Zmina (Ukraine), Anya Neistat, Legal Director of Clooney Foundation for Justice, Isabelle Gattiker, director of the International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights in Geneva, Gerald Staberock, Secretary General of the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), Ole von Uexkull, executive director of Right Livelihood Foundation, Alice Mogwe, president of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.
A press conference was held in the Lithuanian Seimas with the participation of MPs Laima Andrikienė, who became the symbolic ‘godparent’ of Leanid Sudalenka, and Rūta Miliūtė, the ‘godparent’ of Marfa Rabkova, Freedom House representative Vytis Jurkonis, Viasna’s human rights activists Pavel Sapelka and Natallia Satsunkevich, as well as Valiantsin Stefanovich’s wife Alina Stefanovich.
“Everyone can join the campaign, and the first thing you can do is take a simple postcard and write to a political prisoner: ‘I read about you today, I know about you, I think about you’,” Vytis Jurkonis said.
Viasna human rights defenders Aleh Pashkevich and Aliaksei Kolchyn together with Vytis Jurkonis also told about the campaign on Lithuanian radio LRT.