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#FreeViasna: Latest news about jailed Viasna human rights defenders

2022 2022-11-02T17:29:41+0300 2022-11-02T17:31:57+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

On September 17, #FreeViasna campaign of solidarity with the imprisoned Viasna members was launched. Here’s the latest news about them.

UN experts called Ales Bialiatski immediate release

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights published a statement demanding the release of Viasna Chair Ales Bialiatski, who has been recently awarded a Nobel Peace Prize, as well as all other imprisoned human rights advocates in Belarus.

“There is a serious accountability gap for gross violations of human rights law in Belarus, and we welcome the solidarity of the international community and all efforts based on international law to persist in seeking justice,” the experts said.

CE Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović called for more support to rights activists from Belarus and Russia

“The recent awards of the Nobel Peace Prize and of the Vaclav Havel Prize to human rights defenders from Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine is an additional recognition by the international community of the crucial role defenders play in advancing and protecting human rights for all, especially in times of war and crisis like the current one,” said the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović.

She drew attention to the fact that human rights defenders “now need more resolute support from Council of Europe member states.

Libereco has started a petition for the release of Ales Bialiatski and Belarusian political prisoners


The German-Swiss human rights organization Libereco—Partnership for Human Rights has collected more than 5,000 signatures on a petition demanding the release of Ales Bialiatski and all other Belarusian political prisoners.

In solidarity with Belarus, Libereco launched the #WeStandBYyou campaign back in July 2020, with members of European parliaments campaigning for the release of Belarusian political prisoners. To date, more than 300 MPs from more than a dozen European countries have taken on symbolic ‘godparenthood’ of political prisoners in Belarus.

After the signatures have been collected, the appeal will be sent to the Belarusian Ambassador to Germany Dzianis Sidarenka and Honorary Consuls of Belarus to Germany René M. Schröder and Frank Kossick.

Sign the petition

Artist Volha Yakubouskaya painted Ales Bialiatski


“I dedicate this work to Ales Bialiatski—Belarusian human rights defender, Chair of the Human Rights Center Viasna, political prisoner, prisoner of conscience, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 2022,” wrote Volha Yakubouskaya known for portraying Belarusian dissidents as cats.

Valiantsin Stefanoviс re-elected as FIDH vice-president

The 41st Congress of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) was held in Paris on 23–27 October to mark the 100th anniversary of the organization's foundation. On the opening day of the event, portraits of jailed human rights advocates, including Viasna members, were displayed in the front row of chairs.

41st FIDH Congress. Photo: Baptiste Cottereau / FIDH

FIDH Eastern Europe and Central Asia Department Head Ilya Nuzov read Valiantsin Stefanovic’s letter from prison.

“I would like to congratulate the Federation on its birthday. This is a very important date for the global human rights movement. Bringing human rights organizations from all over the world under one roof, the Federation is unique. There are people from different cultures, nationalities, and races, but all of them share the ideas and values of human rights. And this vividly demonstrates the universality of human rights.”

On the final day of Congress, the election of the FIDH Vice president took place. Belarusian political prisoner and human rights defender Valiantsin Stefanovic was re-elected for a second term in this office.He has been Vice president of FIDH since 2019.

FIDH Congress delegates assembled in front of the Paris City Hall to demand the release of imprisoned human rights defenders around the world. A number of them held portraits of imprisoned Viasna activists.

FIDH Congress attendees with portraits of imprisoned human rights defenders. Photo: Baptiste Cottereau / FIDH

Human rights defenders met with Emmanuel Macron

President of France Emmanuel Macron met with delegates of the International Federation for Human Rights. The meeting was attended, among others, by Viasna rights campaigner Pavel Sapelka, FIDH President Alice Mogwe, and Head of the Centre for Civil Liberties Oleksandra Matviychuk, whose organization has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize 2022 together with Ales Bialiatski and Russian Memorial.

Pavel Sapelka presented the French president with a Viasna T-shirt featuring the organization’s jailed leader Ales Bialiatski. | Laurent Blevennec / Présidence de la République

“Thanks to the International Federation for Human Rights, which has been fighting for 100 years. Today it is struggling thanks to the action of these women and men who are committed to combating impunity at the risk of their lives. They can count on our support,” Macron twitted after the meeting.

Viasna and PEN Belarus shortlisted for Human Rights Tulip

The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced the shortlist for the Human Rights Tulip 2022 award. The prize is awarded each year to a human rights defender or human rights organization to support their important work.

From 80 nominees from around the world, 10 candidates have been selected for the award’s shortlist. 

Viasna has been commended for monitoring the human rights situation in Belarus and raising awareness of democracy and human rights, as well as defending individual rights, particularly the rights of political prisoners. Last year Viasna was also short-listed for the award.

Valiantsin Stefanovic celebrated his 50th anniversary behind bars

On October 14, political prisoner human rights defender Valyantsin Stefanovich celebrated his 50th birthday in the pre-trial detention center. 

Valentin's wife Alina Stefanovic told about her husband's second birthday behind bars and the latest news about him. 

“In his letters, Valiantsin expressed his attitude toward the new charges. He says he had nothing to be ashamed of. Indeed, it is his life's work. Of course, it is unpleasant stuff, but apparently, he sees it as a part of human rights activist life.

He always said that the state does not like human rights defenders, and that is why they are often imprisoned.”

Mrs. Stefanovic says that her husband did not have any health issues at the moment. In the winter, the jailed human rights activist caught pneumonia in a pre-trial detention center.

"Preserving health is the main thing that is required of Valentine now. The rest can be bought, but health is an exhaustible resource.”

Alina tells us that she planned to have a small family dinner with children for Valiantsin's birthday:

“Of course, we would like to celebrate such occasions at home with relatives and friends, but such is Valiantsin’s fate, as is the fate of Ales (Bialiatski—ed.), who celebrated both his 50th and 60th anniversaries behind bars. Still, I hope that sooner or later it will all be over.”

It is also known that Valiantsin has not received some of the congratulations from his colleagues.

In one of his letters, Stefanovic mentioned how the criminal case against Ales Bialiatski, Uladzimir Labkovich, and he was going. It is known that the investigation has been completed now and now human rights defenders started familiarizing themselves with the case files. 

Stefanovich assumes that the trial will soon begin:

“Probably in January, although it may be in December. I think it will be Minsk Municipal Court and it will be a closed-door trial. ... I think they will give us long terms and demonstratively tough sentences.”

Uladzimir Labkovich celebrated his birthday in pre-trial detention center No. 1

On 22 October political prisoner Uladzimir Labkovich, coordinator of the Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections campaign, turned 44. This is the second birthday he has had to celebrate behind bars. 

Uladzimir Labkovich's health behind bars is rapidly deteriorating: he suffers from constant headaches and his eyesight deteriorates. The human rights activist writes about this in his letters.

Marfa Rabkova appealed her sentence

Marfa Rabkova, the coordinator of the Viasna Volunteer Service, has filed an appeal against her sentence, as she told in a letter from jail.

"I'm doing all right, I'm busy with all sorts of things, that's why time runs relatively quickly. I started to study English and it turned out that it was not so bad. I filed an appeal, wrote one addendum to it, and am going to write the second one. When I will hear the recording of the session I'm going to write the third addendum.”

Marfa also writes that her health is ok. She sends her greetings to everyone.

Support Marfa Rabkova and Andrei Chapiuk

Marfa Rabkova and volunteer Andrei Chapiuk, sentenced to 15 and 6 years in prison, respectively, have been detained in pre-trial detention center No. 1 for more than two years. The political prisoners will wait three to four months for the consideration of the appeal against the sentence.

One can still support them by donating money on the BySol website.

There was no news from the head of the Homieĺ branch of Viasna Leanid Sudalenka lately.