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#FreeViasna: Weekly news digest on Viasna’s imprisoned human rights defenders

2022 2022-03-21T19:42:14+0300 2022-03-21T19:48:39+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

Addressing the 49th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, the representatives of the Right Livelihood foundation mentioned the imprisoned Viasna members and highlighted the shrinking space for civil society as countries worldwide are moving to criminalize human rights work and restrict fundamental freedoms.

Right Livelihood: Civil society activists often imprisoned amid crackdown on dissent video

Civil society activists face imprisonment in many countries as the crackdown on civic space continues to intensify, Right Livelihood warned the UN Human Rights Council in a statement on Wednesday.

Viasna executives behind bars for 250 days

Ales Bialiatski, chairman of Viasna, Valiantsin Stefanovich, deputy chairman, and Uladzimir Labkovich, a lawyer, have been in jail for 250 days. Since the outbreak of war in Ukraine, the number of letters to and from political prisoners has decreased significantly. 

Ales Bialiatski's relatives have not received letters from the human rights defender for more than a month. 

An exhibition “Free Belarus” is held in front of the European Center of Solidarity in Gdańsk

General view of the Gdańsk exhibition

Gdańsk exhibition features portraits of activists and citizens of Belarus who advocated democratic changes in 2020, including political prisoner Ales Bialiatski, chairman of the Human Rights Center "Viasna.

 “On the 30th anniversary of the proclamation of the sovereignty of the Republic of Belarus, we pay tribute to all the heroes of the struggle for its freedom and independence. We believe that the Belarusians will be able to find real freedom," the exhibition description reads.

“Cat in Valadarka jail”: Valiantsin Stefanovich's wife finally receives his drawings 

After six months of waiting the wife of Valiantsin Stefanovich, the deputy chairman of Viasna, finally received his drawings from the series “Cat adventures in Valadarka prison”.

Earlier, in one of his letters to his wife, Valiantsin Stefanovich mentioned that he drew for her the adventures of a cat in prison, but the drawings did not pass censorship.

“I once sketched my life for you in pictures depicting me as a cat. […] There were very funny, but the local censor didn't like the drawings and sent them to me back with the note “Censored’”.

“Cat-the-Jailbird having lunch.” Drawing by politically imprisoned human rights defender Valiantsin Stefanovich
Left: “Cat-the-Jailbird taking shower.” Right: “Cat-the-Jailbird enjoying outdoor time”. Drawings by politically imprisoned human rights defender Valiantsin Stefanovich

Uladzimir Labkovich: “My family is now the whole world to me, and I miss them very much”

In one of the letters sent earlier, human rights activist Uladzimir Labkovich writes of his condition, describing the lack of news and longing for lyrics of old songs: 

“It's hard to answer questions about how I'm doing here. Bad, I guess. I often have headaches and rarely sleep for more than two hours.

I don't have any news from the outside world at all. Absolutely no news at all. […] But, actually, it's even better this way.  After all, my family is now the whole world to me, and I miss them very much and fear for them.


[The jail] is where I realized, more than anywhere else, that I got really old. It' s time to go to the dustheap. ‘Rock and Roll is Dead’. But I miss the lyrics of old songs.”

No news from four members of Vesna

Marfa Rabkova, the coordinator of the Viasna volunteer service, has been kept behind bars for 550 days now, and volunteer Andrei Chapiuk for 535 days. There has been no news from them for the past week. 

There was also no news from Homieĺ human rights defender Leanid Sudalenka and a volunteer from Rečyca Tatsiana Lasitsa, who were sentenced to three and two and a half years in prison, respectively.