International community condemns the verdict of Viasna leadership
On March 3, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and the chairman of Viasna Ales Bialiatski was sentenced to 10 years in prison, Viasna Deputy chair Valiantsin Stefanovic received nine years in prison, and lawyer Ulladzimir Labkovich was punished with seven years in jail. We collect the international reactions to the shameful sentences of human rights defenders.
The Board of the Memorial Human Rights Center issued a statement about the verdict:
“The verdict, as well as the criminal prosecution of Bialiatski, Stefanovic, and Labkovich, is a blatant lawless reprisal for their human rights activities during the campaign of terror against civil society and all the people of Belarus, launched by the dictatorial regime in August 2020 after the elections, lost by Lukashenka.
We demand the release of Ales Bialiatski, Valiantsin Stefanovich and Uladzimir Labkovich. We express our support and solidarity to them.”
Responding to the news, Germán Rojas, Chair of PEN International’s Writers for Peace Committee, said:
“PEN International is appalled at the sentencing of Nobel Peace Prize 2022 winner Ales Bialiatski to 10 years in prison. Bialiatski has devoted his life to the promotion of democracy and human rights in Belarus. In December, he was barred from delivering his speech to the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, where he was hailed as a beacon of light for the region, and beyond. Bialiatski is a symbol of hope, an inspirating to human rights defenders around the world, and should be celebrated as such. We call for his immediate and unconditional release, and for his sentencing and conviction to be overturned.”
“He is one of the strongest voices for democracy and human rights in Belarus. The Belarusian regime’s desperate attempt to silence him and other critics with long prison sentences is appalling but not unexpected. The country’s democracy movement has faced severe crack downs from the regime since the 2020 protests, and the situation is constantly getting worse. The international community must continue to support those who stand up for human rights and democracy in Belarus,” says Anders L. Pettersson, Executive Director at Civil Rights Defenders.
#Belarus: after a trial marred with violations, our colleagues Ales #Bialiatski, Valiantsin Stefanovic and Uladzimir Labkovic were condemned to 10, 9 & 7 years in prison respectively #FIDH condemns this cruel and absurd verdict and calls for a strong international reaction
Appalled by the sentencing of Nobel Peace Prize and Sakharov Prize laureate Ales Bialiatski to 10 years in prison. Politically motivated rulings against Bialiatski and @viasna96 activists are an insult to justice. I call for their release. @Europarl_EN supports a free Belarus.
President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola
I strongly condemn the verdict by the Lukashenko regime against Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Ales Bialiatski & @viasna96 activists They must be released. Their fight for human rights and justice in Belarus will go on Attempts to silence them will fail. We will carry their voices
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen
Sentencing Aleś Bialacki and his Viasna’s associates for years in prison is the regime’s desperate attempt to silence them. It’s futile. The Nobel Peace Prize Winner and all political prisoners are true heroes of Belarus. Their call for freedom is loud, even behind bars.
Comment by UN Human Rights spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani on sentencing of human rights defenders in Belarus:
“The prison sentences delivered today in Belarus against four human rights defenders, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ales Bialiatski, on smuggling and extremism-related charges, are deeply troubling and indicative of the ongoing repression in the country. ... The lack of independence of the judiciary and other violations of fair trial guarantees have resulted in human rights defenders in Belarus being criminally prosecuted, convicted and sentenced for their legitimate human rights work. ...
We remain deeply concerned that, as of today, some 1,458 people are reported to be in detention in Belarus on politically motivated charges.”
I condemn today’s harsh and politically motivated sentencing of individuals from Belarusian human rights organisation Viasna. I extend my sympathies to Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ales Bialiatski and co-defendants Stefanovich, Labkovich & Salauyou.
Minister of State of the United Kingdom for Europe and North America Leo Docherty
U.S. Mission Belarus Statement on Verdicts and Sentences in Viasna Cases:
The United States categorically rejects the verdict pronounced today by a Minsk court in the cases of Viasna leaders Ales Bialiatski, Valiantsin Stefanovich, Dzmitry Salauyou, and Uladzimir Labkovicz.
And yet, we are not surprised. Sentences of 7-10 years in detention have become a regular part of the lexicon of repression utilised by the Lukashenka regime since the fraudulent presidential election of August 2020. Their intent is to silence leaders of democratic forces, civil society activists, and human rights defenders. Their aim is to construct the semblance of stability at a moment of domestic disenfranchisement and regional insecurity. Their priority is the preservation of political power at the expense of sovereignty and independence and individual freedoms. These efforts will fail.