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“Caged and handcuffed human rights champions, this is what the Belarusian justice looks like today”

2023 2023-03-03T18:33:52+0300 2023-03-03T18:33:52+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

Statement of Human Rights Center Viasna

March 3, 2023

Today, the Lieninski District Court of Minsk convicted four Viasna human rights defenders. The court found them guilty of “training or other preparation of people to participate in group actions grossly violating the public order and financing or other material support of such activities” and “smuggling (illegal movement of cash across the customs border of the Eurasian Economic Union on a large scale by an organized group”. The following punishment was imposed:

  • Viasna chair and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ales Bialiatski received 10 years of imprisonment;
  • Viasna board member and vice-president of FIDH Valiantsin Stefanovic received nine years of imprisonment;
  • Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections campaign coordinator Uladzimir Labkovich received seven years of imprisonment; and
  • Viasna human rights defender Zmitser Salauyou who was tried in absentia received eight years of imprisonment.

The court also fined the defendants from 111,000 to 185,000 Belarusian rubles (approx. $41,300–69,000), while another 752,438 rubles (almost $297,650) were ordered to be collected in addition to the fines.

In this regard, we declare that Human Rights Center Viasna peacefully defends human rights and fundamental freedoms in Belarus, guaranteed both by the country's Constitution and international human rights standards. We strongly reject any pressure on members of our organization and other human rights defenders as well as their persecution for carrying out such activities, considering it as politically motivated persecution.

We emphasize that the Belarusian authorities have created unacceptable conditions for the activities of human rights defenders and human rights organizations. At present, there are no registered human rights organizations left in the country. The Human Rights Center Viasna was previously deprived of registration, which, together with the refusal to re-register it, was twice considered by the UN Human Rights Committee as a violation of the right to freedom of association. The failure to register deprived human rights defenders of any opportunity to comply with the excessive requirements of undemocratic laws regulating the activities of NGOs.

We are convinced that the real motive for the persecution of our colleagues and friends is their activity in defense and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms, our common struggle for the victory of democratic values and ideas together with the entire human rights community of Belarus and international human rights organizations.

Conducted with gross violations of the principles of fair justice, the trial once again clearly demonstrated the political nature of the persecution of human rights defenders. The caged and handcuffed human rights champions, who have won international recognition, vividly illustrate the character of Belarusian justice, which has sent more than 1,500 political prisoners behind bars in the last two years alone.

Viasna volunteer service coordinator Ms. Marfa Rabkova, Viasna's Homieĺ branch lawyer Mr. Leanid Sudalenka, and Viasna volunteer Mr. Andrei Chapiuk are also imprisoned.

  • We, the members of Viasna, strongly protest the continuing repression against members of the organization and against civil society in Belarus as a whole and declare that we will not stop our human rights activities.
  • We demand the immediate release of Mr. Ales Bialiatski, Mr. Valiantsin Stefanovich, Mr. Uladzimir Labkovich, Ms. Marfa Rabkova, Mr. Leanid Sudalenka, and Mr. Andrei Chapiuk, and stop the repression and to release all political prisoners.


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