Ales Bialiatski: Belarus will continue systemic repression of social and political activists
On September 13, the Belarusian House in Warsaw organized a round table “Belarus - Repression Behind the “Liberalization” Façade” as part of the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM 2018).
The discussion involved chairman of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" Ales Bialiatski, head of the Belarusian Association of Journalists Andrei Bastunets, Distinguished Professor at the University of Alberta (Canada) David Marples, president of the Solidarity Fund PL Maciej Falkowski, and a board member of the East European Democratic Center Paweł Kazanecki.
During the event, Ales Bialiatski stressed that Belarus continues to demonstrate poor human rights record, and the government's repressive policies are still aimed at civil society.
“Citizens are persecuted for their participation in public and political life. Such harassment is manifested in preemptive detention on the eve of peaceful assemblies, administrative prosecution for participation in the meetings in the form of heavy fines and administrative arrests,” he said.
The human rights activist mentioned the number of people detained for participating in peaceful assemblies in 2017 and 2018, especially on the Day of Freedom: 700 and 112 people respectively, as well as politically motivated criminal cases in which 40 people were held in 2017, and at least 9 people in 2018.
Ales Bialiatski also touched upon the issue of the death penalty in Belarus.
“The issue of a moratorium or abolition of the death penalty is not being solved. This year, three people have been executed. Now four men are on death row waiting for execution,” Bialiatski said.
According to Viasna’s head, the following year will see more systemic repression against social and political activists, given the fact that in 2020 the country will have two elections — presidential and parliamentary, during which the level of repression is traditionally increasing.
On September 12, a side event “The current situation of civil and political rights in Belarus: first-hand information from inside" was held in Warsaw. It was attended by representatives of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the Assembly of Democratic NGOs of Belarus, the Human Rights Center "Viasna", the Legal Transformation Center and the Belarusian Association of journalists.
The Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM) of OSCE participating States is Europe’s largest annual human rights and democracy conference. It is organized every year by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) as a platform for the 57 OSCE participating States, the OSCE Partners for Co-operation, OSCE structures, civil society, international organizations and other relevant actors to take stock of the implementation of OSCE human dimension commitments, discuss associated challenges, share good practices and make recommendations for further improvement.
HDIM 2018 opened in Warsaw on September 10 and will be completed on September 21. Apart from fundamental human rights, the conference addresses the subject of freedom of the media, immigrants’ rights, the fight against racism, xenophobia and all forms of discrimination.