viasna on patreon

"Free Viasna!" International colleagues speak about the anniversary of the verdict in Viasna case

2024 2024-03-04T14:56:40+0300 2024-03-04T16:24:59+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

One year ago, on March 3, 2023, Viasna human rights defenders Ales Bialiatski, Valiantsin Stefanovich, and Uladzimir Labkovich were sentenced to harsh terms. Meanwhile, their international colleagues continue to support them. Viasna gathered the reactions of the international colleagues on the anniversary of the verdict in Viasna case.

Sentencing of Viasna leaders, March 3
The trial of the Viasna case, March 3, 2023

Alice Mogwe, President of FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights)

"One year after the unjust verdict and over 2,5 years since the arbitrary detention of Ales, Valiantsin and Uladzimir, I am dismayed that our colleagues still remain imprisoned. We are appalled by what we know about the harsh conditions in Belarusian prisons and the treatment of political prisoners in these facilities.

Throughout their imprisonment, we have lost the public voices not only of our courageous, kind and brilliant colleagues, but also important voices within FIDH. Valiantsin Stefanovic is one of our two FIDH Vice Presidents for the Eastern Europe and Central Asia Region. When he was re-elected Vice President at our centenary Congress in 2022, pictures of Valiantsin, Ales and Uladzimir, as well as of Marfa Rabkova and Andrey Chapiuk, were placed on empty chairs on the first row. Today, we reiterate our solidarity and support for Ales, Valiantsin and Uladzimir, as well as for their families, friends and colleagues, who continue their important work of documenting human rights violations in Belarus. We also reiterate our call to the Belarusian authorities: Free Viasna!"

Anastasiia Kruope, researcher at the international human rights organization Human Rights Watch

"Today marks one year since the sentencing of Ales Bialiatski, Valiantsin Stefanovich, Uladzimir Labkovich. There is no doubt that the criminal charges brought against them were flimsy, politically motivated and were designed in retaliation for their human rights activities.

Unfortunately, Ales, Uladzimir, and Valiantsin are not the only human rights defenders in today's Belarus who unfairly serve time for their work. At the moment, human rights activities are actually outlawed in Belarus, and they are often equated with extremist and subversive activities. As a result of such a policy, many human rights organizations and about a thousand non-governmental organizations and public organizations were forcibly dissolved.

There is nothing surprising in the fact that the Belarusian authorities are persecuting Viasna members and other activists, and this only proves the importance of the work that human rights defenders are doing, which Viasna is doing and continues to do. After all, the Belarusian authorities are trying to create an information vacuum around what is still happening in Belarus. And in the year since the sentencing of Ales, Valiantsin, and Uladzimir, and in the years since their arrest, the repression inside Belarus has not stopped.

For me and many, many other human rights activists, the example of Valiantsin, Ales, and Uladzimir is an inspiring example of commitment to human rights work and the values it is aimed at protecting.

I often recall the last words of Valiantsin Stefanovich, which he uttered at his trial, when he said that the criminal prosecution of activists would not stop the work of Viasna. But he also said that spring always comes after winter, and spring will inevitably come.

I wish freedom to all human rights defenders and activists who are behind bars in Belarus for their work. I wish freedom to all political prisoners in Belarus and really hope that spring will come."

The Netherlands Helsinki Committee, colleagues from the Human Rights Defence program

"The human rights community is losing irreplaceable leaders and activists who played a key role in protecting human rights and supporting civil society in Belarus. While they are behind bars, we are facing rising pressure on independent organizations and an overwhelming increase in restrictions on rights and freedoms. It also signals the deterioration of the human rights situation in the country, which makes the work of human rights defenders not only more difficult and dangerous, but also even more important and significant.

These sentences and imprisonment are of great personal and organizational importance to us. Personally, for me, as a person who worked with Ales Bialiatski, Valiantsin Stefanovich, and Uladzimir Labkovich, this is a very painful blow. They are not only colleagues, but also friends, committed to their work and the ideals of human rights. This became an occasion for our organization to adapt our work aimed at supporting human rights organizations in Belarus.

I would like to emphasize that, despite the difficulties and repressions, the human rights community of Belarus continues its important work, and we will continue to support it. It is important that the international community continue to support Belarusian human rights defenders, condemn the human rights violations taking place in the country, and take specific steps to help Belarus return to the path to democracy. Only together can we achieve change and ensure that all citizens of Belarus can enjoy their rights and freedoms."

36 human rights organizations around the world demanded the release of imprisoned Viasna members

One year after the unjust verdict against human rights defenders Ales Bialiatski, Valiantsin Stefanovic and Uladzimir Labkovich, the Observatory and the undersigned organizations call for their immediate and unconditional release

Latest news