"A person who stands for national values and whose life is driven by them"
The head of the Human Rights Centre Viasna, Ales Bialiatski, has devoted all his life to the revival of the Belarusian Belarus and the struggle for human rights, Radio Racyja says.
Alena Laptsionak, a member of Viasna invited by the Racyja Guest programme, has told us about Ales Bialiatski.
– I have known Ales for over 30 years, having met him first when I was a five-year student at the Belarusian State University and started working as a research associate at the Maksim Bahdanovich Literary Museum. Speaking of Ales as the one in a leadership role, I could say that I have never seen a better manager. Although I have nobody to compare to, because I haven’t worked under anyone else, I may still rely on what I see around me. I have friends and acquaintances who describe to me their working experience and the climate at their jobs. Ales is a top-flight manager.
RR: What could you say about his personality?
– I wouldn’t like to make Ales look an angel, but again, I could mention nothing but his strengths. Each of us has some minor weaknesses, we are all humans. But when these weaknesses are insignificant in comparison with the very best the person has in him, they, indeed, become invisible. Having known Ales for so many years, I could, first of all, describe him as a man of great self-command, a most organized, selfless and single-minded man. He is a person who stands for national values above all others and whose life is driven by them, so, nothing but good things come to my mind.
RR: Which of his qualities do you consider most admirable and especially noteworthy?
– As a fact, I have already mentioned them. First, it’s his commitment, his calm and even temper, and his self-possession. He is a person who is always weighing his words. I think, the first term he served in prison only made him tougher, and, in spite of being an ordeal, the experience he gained there, during his ‘business trip’, as he called it, was something that broadened his horizons as a human rights activist. Needless to say, that in the situation that we’ve got now, in today’s Belarus, with thousands of people being persecuted, unlike at the time when Ales alone was imprisoned, and with practically the entire Viasna suffering a severe blow, it hurts me to see all this and to think about the friends behind the bars. Although I know that for Ales it was a meaningful action.
РР: Which would have been a better decision, to leave so that to keep the organization going, or the choice he eventually made?
– It’s hard to say, because I believe, for him it was a deliberate decision. Definitely, I would wish the organization to continue its activities in exactly the same way it used to do before. I would like to think that things will come right for Viasna. It might have been better for Ales to remain free as he had already served one term in prison. It was his choice, but I am sure that had he, alternatively, decided to leave the country, nobody would blame him now.
Alena Laptsionak has told us that she worked in the closest cooperation with and got to know Ales better when they maintained correspondence during his first term in prison:
– I couldn’t help feeling surprised at his strength and his capacity to work; he managed to do so much during those three years behind bars, both performing his job duties and answering letters sent to him by other people. He did his best to leave nobody unattended.
Ales Bialiatski was detained on 14 July 2021 and has been in custody since then. On 6 October, he was reported to be charged with only one violation under the Criminal Code, namely part 2 of Article 243 (evasion of taxes). The sanctions imposed by this article include personal restraint for up to 5 years or imprisonment for a term from 3 to 7 years. This information had been unavailable before because the human rights activist’s lawyer has been under a non-disclosure order while the letters sent by the Viasna activist from the detention centre are heavily censored.
According to the charges made, Ales Bialiatski, together with Uladzimir Labkovich, Valiantsin Stefanovich, Dzmitry Salauyou "and other unidentified persons", directed the activities of Viasna after its liquidation by the Supreme Court in 2003. They, "in violation of the provisions of the Civil Code and the Tax Code, failed to register Viasna as a legal entity and a taxpayer and filed no documents with tax authorities". Accordingly, they "withheld from tax authorities information on the payments made <...> and evaded the recognition of the organization as a tax agent". Thus, the human rights activists "evaded the payment of income taxes <...> by way of concealing the tax base for a period from 2013 through 2020 in a total amount of at least 113 thousand 428 roubles, which makes 3,911 basic value units".
You may support Ales by sending him a letter or a postcard at:
SIZO-1, 220030, Minsk, vulica Valadarskaha 2
Ales Bialiatski (Аляксандру Віктаравічу Бяляцкаму)
Translated from original interview published on racyja.com