viasna on patreon

Ales Bialiatski: “Enough is enough, we must stop this civil war” Viasna leadership delivered their last words at court

2023 2023-02-13T20:32:41+0300 2023-04-10T21:05:05+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
Uladzimir Labkovich, Ales Bialiatski and Valiantsin Stefanovic. Credit:

Uladzimir Labkovich, Ales Bialiatski and Valiantsin Stefanovic. Credit:

The trial in the criminal case against Viasna is over. The verdict in the Viasna case will be announced in early spring, at 12:00 Minsk time on March 3. Today our colleagues pronounced their last word in court. We publish the highlights from their speeches.

What Bialitski, Stefanovic, and Labkovich said in their last word in court: full translation of their speeches

The Lieninski District Court of Minsk has finished the hearings in the criminal trial against the Viasna chair and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ales Bialiatski, his deputy and FIDH vice-president Valiantsin Stefanovic, Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections campaign coordinator Uladzimir Labkovich, and human rights defender Zmitser Salauyou who is tried in absentia. On February 13, human rights defenders gave their last words the full translation of which from Belarusian into English we publish today.

Ales Bialitski: “A broad public dialog aimed at national reconciliation should be initiated”

Алесь Беляцкий на суде

“Clearly, the political decision of the authorities [how to resolve the crisis after the 2020 election campaign] was to crush and destroy civil society in Belarus.
Repression in the country continues to this day. People are being tried in politically motivated trials. Only in the dark years of the Russian Empire and Stalin's rule did something like this happen in our history. At the beginning of the 1980s, at the height of the Soviet Union's crackdown on dissidents, human rights activists, activists of national and religious movements, there were about three thousand political prisoners in the entire Soviet empire with its vast population of 250 million people. Now there are 1,500 political prisoners in Belarus alone.”

“Millions of Belarusians think, reason, and—after all—live one way, and millions of others do it another way. And today it doesn't matter who outnumbers whom. There are millions on both sides. It is important to understand that this social division will be with us for a long time. The path of confrontation, where one side—the security services, the prosecutor's office, the investigators, the courts—pushes forward and suppresses the other side, is dangerous and unpromising. It leads nowhere.”

A broad public dialog aimed at national reconciliation should be initiated. It must be preceded by the release of all political prisoners, a broad amnesty, and an end to repression. Both the authorities and representatives of the general public, political parties and movements, those who are now in prison and those who are fleeing the repression and have been forced to go abroad should take part in such a dialogue.

We must clearly understand that it is better to hold tough negotiations and gradually get out of the crisis than to fall into a reckless confrontation, which can lead to very serious consequences: poverty and misery, violence and injustice—which will ruin Belarus. If we think of Belarus as our common homeland, where there is room for everyone, regardless of different political views and geopolitical preferences; if we do not want to plunge the country into poverty; if we do not want mass migration out of Belarus in search of a better life; if we want to get a chance for economic, social, political, ecological development of our people—we must start this national dialogue! Enough is enough, we must stop this civil war. I hope that my words will be heard.”

Prosecution requests 12-year sentence for Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ales Bialiatski

The Lieninski District Court of Minsk reached the closing arguments step in Viasna trial. The prosecution is seeking to sentence the Nobel Prize laureate Ales Bialiatski to 12 years in a penal colony, Viasna deputy chair Valiantsin Stefanovic to 11 years, lawyer Uladzimir Labkovich to 9 years, and Zmitser Salauyou who is tried in absentia to 10 years.

Valiantsin Stefanovic: “Our persecution is entirely political. But it will never stop Viasna from working”

Валентин Стефанович на суде

“I would like to point out that [this trial] has been conducted from the very beginning in violation of our rights, with the use of treatment that degrades human dignity, in violation of the presumption of innocence and in violation of equality of rights.”

“As for Viasna, there have always been threats against us, and for some reason they coincided with the election campaigns. In our country we have such a rationality: those who participated in the elections go to jail. And now it has expanded to include representatives of the independent media and civil society. [So far] no one has been prosecuted for activities on behalf of an unregistered organization. Why is that? Because our law enforcement agencies only bite when there is an order. If there is no command, no one bites.”

“Our persecution is entirely political. But it will never stop Viasna from working. We have not lived our lives in vain, we have prepared our successors. New generations of Belarusian human rights defenders have grown up and are continuing our work. The natural course of life cannot be stopped. Winter is followed by spring, and spring will inevitably come.”

UN Special Rapporteurs informed about violations of the rights and freedoms of Viasna members during the trial

In connection with the violation of the fundamental rights and freedoms of the Viasna leadership during the trial, the rights advocates of Viasna appealed to the UN special rapporteurs on human rights defenders, freedom of peaceful assembly and association, as well as the state of human rights in Belarus. Viasna lawyer Sviatlana Halauniova explains that during the trial the following violations of the rights and freedoms of the defendants were recorded.

Uladzimir Labkovich: “The requested term is insurmountable”

Владимир Лабкович на суде

I consider the sentence that was requested by the State Prosecutor for me personally as insurmountable. And at the moment all my thoughts are with my family: my mother, my children, whose names are Adelia, Adam, and Yan, and my wife Nina, who has gone through a great ordeal during all this time.”

A full translation of Bialiatski's, Stefanovic's, and Labkovich's last words in court will be published later this week.

Latest news