FIDH urges Belarus authorities to stop prosecution of Viasna members
Nobel prize winner Ales Bialiatski, FIDH Vice-President Valiantsin Stefanovic and lawyer Uladzimir Labkovich, will be tried on January 5, 2023. The three face fake charges of smuggling and financing of group actions grossly violating public order.
FIDH issued a statement in support of the imprisoned fellow human rights defenders. The statement points out that the charges are politically motivated and refer to Viasna’s legitimate human rights activities, deemed "illegal" by the prosecution. The defendants are notably accused of helping victims of the Lukashenka regime’s repression, including those protesting the 2020 election fraud, by paying their legal fees, reimbursing fines and paying for meals in detention centers.
The reprisals against Viasna and its members are part of a broader crackdown on civil society in Belarus. In 2021 alone, the authorities shut down more than 275 human rights and other civil society organisations, leaving no legally operating independent NGO in the country. In December 2021, the authorities re-introduced criminal liability for working with unregistered or liquidated organisations. This led to a de facto criminalisation of human rights work in Belarus. Since 2020, five other members of Viasna were put behind bars, including Marfa Rabkova, Andrei Chapyuk, Leanid Sudalenka and Tatsiana Lasitsa.
The persecution of Viasna human rights defenders is a flagrant violation of their rights to liberty, fair trial and freedom of association, enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Belarus.
The Observatory strongly condemns the criminal prosecution of Ales Bialiatski, Valiantsin Stefanovic, and Uladzimir Labkovich and reiterates its calls to the Belarusian authorities to release them immediately and unconditionally, as well as all other human rights defenders in Belarus, and drop all charges against them.
The Observatory further calls on the international community and friendly states to respond decisively with solidarity actions, public statements and letters supporting human rights defenders of Viasna, and by requesting to attend the trial on January 5, 2023.