Posts Tagged ‘Ales Bialiatski’

Meet Ales Bialiatski, Nobel Peace Prize 2022

October 8, 2022

True Heroes Films (THF) has published a timely portrait of Ales Bialiatski, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize 2022, drawn from an in-depth interview with him at the Paris Summit for Human Rights Defenders in Paris, October 2018.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/10/07/nobel-peace-prize-2022-goes-to-well-recognised-human-rights-defenders/

Nobel Peace Prize 2022 goes to well-recognised human rights defenders

October 7, 2022

On 7 September 2022 The Norwegian Nobel Committee decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2022 to one individual and two organisations, who represent civil society in their home countries. They have for many years promoted the right to criticise power and protect the fundamental rights of citizens. They have made an outstanding effort to document war crimes, human right abuses and the abuse of power. Together they demonstrate the significance of civil society for peace and democracy.

This year’s Peace Prize is awarded to human rights advocate Ales Bialiatski from Belarus, the Russian human rights organisation Memorial and the Ukrainian human rights organisation Center for Civil Liberties. The first two are well-known and received many important human rights awards.

Ales Bialiatski was the winner of 11 other awards, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/72682FFF-628F-4A5D-B6B3-52A776FF0E47, while Memorial got 7 awards earlier [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/BD12D9CE-37AA-7A35-9A32-F37A0EA8C407], Oleksandra Matviichuk, the chair of the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties received a few days ago the Right livelihood award [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/75690f04-7a51-4591-8e18-0826b93959b3]

Ales Bialiatski founded the organisation Viasna (Spring) in 1996 in response to the controversial constitutional amendments that gave the president dictatorial powers and that triggered widespread demonstrations. In the years that followed, Viasna evolved into a broad-based human rights organisation that documented and protested against the authorities’ use of torture against political prisoners. Government authorities have repeatedly sought to silence Ales Bialiatski. He was imprisoned from 2011 to 2014. Following large-scale demonstrations against the regime in 2020, he was again arrested. He is still detained without trial. Despite tremendous personal hardship, Mr Bialiatski has not yielded an inch in his fight for human rights and democracy in Belarus. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/viasna-human-rights-centre/

The human rights organisation Memorial was established in 1987 by human rights activists in the former Soviet Union who wanted to ensure that the victims of the communist regime’s oppression would never be forgotten. Nobel Peace Prize laureate Andrei Sakharov and human rights advocate Svetlana Gannushkina were among the founders. Memorial is based on the notion that confronting past crimes is essential in preventing new ones. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Memorial grew to become the largest human rights organisation in Russia. In addition to establishing a centre of documentation on victims of the Stalinist era, Memorial compiled and systematised information on political oppression and human rights violations in Russia. Memorial became the most authoritative source of information on political prisoners in Russian detention facilities. The organisation has also been standing at the forefront of efforts to combat militarism and promote human rights and government based on rule of law. During the Chechen wars, Memorial gathered and verified information on abuses and war crimes perpetrated on the civilian population by Russian and pro-Russian forces. In 2009, the head of Memorial’s branch in Chechnya, Natalia Estemirova, was killed because of this work. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/15/ngos-remember-10th-anniversary-of-natalia-estemirovas-murder/]

Civil society actors in Russia have been subjected to threats, imprisonment, disappearance and murder for many years. As part of the government’s harassment of Memorial, the organisation was stamped early on as a “foreign agent”. In December 2021, the authorities decided that Memorial was to be forcibly liquidated and the documentation centre was to be closed permanently. The closures became effective in the following months, but the people behind Memorial refuse to be shut down. In a comment on the forced dissolution, chairman Yan Rachinsky stated, “Nobody plans to give up.” [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/12/29/russias-supreme-court-orders-closure-emblematic-memorial/]

The Center for Civil Liberties was founded in Kyiv in 2007 for the purpose of advancing human rights and democracy in Ukraine. The center has taken a stand to strengthen Ukrainian civil society and pressure the authorities to make Ukraine a full-fledged democracy. To develop Ukraine into a state governed by rule of law, Center for Civil Liberties has actively advocated that Ukraine become affiliated with the International Criminal Court. After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Center for Civil Liberties has engaged in efforts to identify and document Russian war crimes against the Ukrainian civilian population. In collaboration with international partners, the center is playing a pioneering role with a view to holding the guilty parties accountable for their crimes.

By awarding this Nobel Peace Prize for 2022 the Norwegian Nobel Committee is honouring outstanding champions of human rights and consistent efforts in favour of humanist values, anti-militarism and principles of law.

https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/2022/press-release/

Belarus an ‘absolute catastrophe” says human rights defender Ales Bialiatski

March 9, 2021

Pip Cook in Geneva Solutions of 9 March 2021 published a rich, detailed interview with Belarus human rights defender Ales Bialiatski [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/6CF69C2A-4101-6782-F0AB-53A307E9F7B2]

Ales Bialiatski laying flowers at a memorial to Aliaksandr Taraikouski, a protester who was killed during a demonstration on August 10, 2020. Credit: HRC Viasna

On February 16, Ales Bialiatski’s home and the offices of his human rights organisation Viasna in Minsk were raided by police. He was targeted along with more than 40 other human rights defenders, journalists and their relative in towns across the country, with reports of officials using excessive force while seizing phones, computers and credit cards.

Bialiatski, one of Belarus’ most prominent human rights defenders, says the authorities were looking for any evidence of organisations or journalists “financing” peaceful protests against the country’s president Alexander Lukashenko. The raids are the latest development in the government’s brutal crackdown on mass protests which have been ongoing in the country since Lukashenko claimed victory in a rigged election last August. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/ales-bialiatski/]

The authorities have recently opened a criminal case against Viasna and Bialiatski himself. A former political prisoner who spent nearly three years jailed in Minsk, he says that, by the time this article is published, he may once again be behind bars.

Millions of people want change, and the answer of the government is repression,” says Bialiatski, speaking to Geneva Solutions from the Right Livelihood Foundation offices in Geneva. He and Viasna received the prestigious award in 2020.

Seven months on from the election, more than 33,000 people have been detained, and there are widespread reports of police brutality, arbitrary arrests, kidnapping, and torture of detainees.

The human rights situation in Belarus is, in Bialiatski’s words, “an absolute catastrophe”. “The situation is quite horrible because it’s not only human rights defenders that suffer,” he explains. “It’s all levels of society. Anybody who can think.”

Over half a year since the first protests broke out in the capital Minsk, he says the authorities are still tightening their grip on personal freedoms and carrying out grave human rights violations, targeting activists, journalists and anyone who opposes the regime. But the people of Belarus are not giving up.

What’s going on in Belarus? The government’s crackdown in Belarus follows mass protests in the country last summer after a fraudulent election in which Lukashenko, known as “Europe’s last dictator”, claimed to have won 80 per cent of the vote. The poll is widely accepted to have been rigged to extend his 25-year rule, prompting the largest demonstrations in the country’s history.

Elections in Belarus have never been considered free and fair by many international observers. Bialiatski has been working to advocate for democratic freedoms in the country since his early twenties, when the country was still under Soviet rule.

He founded Viasna in 1996, five years after Belarus gained independence from the Soviet Union and two years after Lukashenko came to power. The organisation’s initial aim was to help thousands of protesters arrested during mass pro-democracy rallies after Lukashenko brought in sweeping constitutional reforms that consolidated his authoritarian rule.

“[My colleagues and I] thought that this work would finish in a few years because the problem would disappear,” says Bialiatski. “But it’s been 25 years and there’s still work to do. It’s never ended. Unfortunately, the human rights situation never got better.”

Accusations of rigged elections, brutal suppression of civil rights and corruption have been hallmarks of Lukashenko’s half a century in power. However, Bialiatski says last year’s poll acted as a catalyst. It was then that Belarusian society finally “woke up” and demanded change.

Breaking the silence. In the run-up to elections in Belarus in 2020, a number of opposition figures became extremely popular, including former members of Lukashenko’s government and Sergei Tikhanovskya, a well-known blogger who travelled the country interviewing former loyal supporters of the ruler about why they had turned against him.

Although Lukashenko jailed or exiled many of his opponents, he did not see Sviatlana Tsikhanovskaya – who ran in the place of her husband when he was imprisoned – as a significant threat. However, Tsikhanovskaya became hugely popular, gaining the support of fellow opposition figures and attracting large crowds of supporters to her rallies.

Events in 2020 drastically impacted the Lukashenko’s loyal following and damaged his reputation. The country’s already dire economic situation was exacerbated by the Covid-19 crisis, which the ruler has fervently denied, refusing to bring in restrictions and joking that the virus could be fought with vodka and work in the country’s potato fields. “Lukashenko was laughing into the world’s face and denying the existence of the virus, while people all around were dying,” says Bialiatski.

Tsikhanovskaya was widely expected to win the vote in a landslide. Although independent polling is illegal in Belarus, making it difficult to measure her lead in the run up to the election, some independent exit polls conducted outside polling stations in foreign embassies on election day showed her to have received 79.69 per cent of the vote while Lukashenko received just 6.25 per cent.

When the government announced it had won 80 per cent of the vote, claiming that Tsikhanovskaya had received less than 10 per cent, Belarusians realised the election had been rigged. “It was an open lie in the face of the people,” says Bialiatski. “Of course there were rallies – nobody believed the result.”

“The very first mass protests on the street were a result of despair and disappointment and disagreement with this injustice that had happened in the country,” he adds.

Thousands of people took to the streets across the country to peacefully protest the result, but they were met with a brutal crackdown from authorities. In Minsk, which saw the worst of the violence, police and the army deployed water cannons, stun grenades and rounds of rubber bullets against protesters. Police vans were reportedly driven into crowds and hundreds were injured, with journalists and independent observers apparently targeted.

As reports circulated of extreme violence against protesters, including systematic torture of detainees by police and security forces, thousands more Belarusians rallied. Over 200,000 people took part in the largest protest in the country’s history, and there were hopes that the pressure may finally topple Lukashenko.

However, the result was an even more brutal crackdown, in which thousands were injured and arrested. “Unfortunately, the peaceful protests didn’t lead to a change of government as was hoped and expected,” says Bialiatski. “Instead, daily repressions started against different people at different layers of society, at different organisations and activists.”

Crackdown on human rights and freedom of speech. According to Viasna, over 2,300 criminal cases have been opened against human rights defenders and activists since the protests erupted in August 2020. In February alone, during the latest spate of arrests, a further 511 people were detained, 102 people received sentences and 49 people imprisoned.

There is currently a criminal case open against Viasna and Bialiatski himself for inciting “public disorder” through allegedly financing ongoing protests by paying the huge fines imposed on protesters. He says the latest raids in which police seized phones, laptops and credit cards were an attempt to collect evidence. “This is considered as financial proof against the regime,” he explains. “They are not allowing us to exercise our human rights protection work, which is our right.

“We are working all the time on the edge of the knife because [we] don’t know when this criminal case will take force and [we] will be sentenced for it,” he says.

It’s not just activists who are being targeted. According to Viasna, there are currently 258 political prisoners in the country, including journalists and bloggers. On 17 February, two journalists, Katsiaryna Andreyeva and Darya Chultsova, both of the Polish-funded Belsat TV channel, were convicted of violating public order and sentenced to two years in prison for covering the protests.

“They are looking for ‘criminals’ among those who help political prisoners and write about the struggle of Belarusians for freedom,” wrote Tsikhanovskaya on Twitter in response to the latest raids. Tsikhanovskaya was forced to flee to Lithuania following last year’s elections.

“But in search of criminals, they should look into the offices of the riot police, the GUBOPiK (interior ministry directorate) and all those responsible for the repression.”

A number of Bialiatski’s colleagues are incarcerated in the country’s jails, imprisoned for as little as sending food parcels to jailed protesters. A former political prisoner himself who spent nearly three years behind bars from 2011-2014, Bialitksi knows all too well how terrible the conditions in Belarus’ prisons can be. With widespread reports of detainees being tortured and subjected to brutal treatment, he says he’s deeply concerned for their welfare.

“How people are treated in Belarusian jails is not a humane way to treat people,” he says. “I really hope that my colleagues and my friends can survive it and I really hope that one day they will be released.”

Pressure from the international community. Last summer’s crackdown prompted western countries to impose sanctions on Minsk, but Lukashenko has refused to resign, bolstered by diplomatic and financial support from long-standing ally Russia. Tikhanovskaya, who remains in Lithuania after the country rejected the Belarusian authority’s request for her extradition, is leading a campaign to encourage external pressure on Belarus in the hope that tougher measures against the regime may succeed in toppling Lukashenko.

Her efforts could be paying off. In December, the EU imposed a third round of economic sanctions against key individuals and companies in Belarus, while in February the Biden administration expanded the list of senior officials in the country who are no longer welcome in the United States.

Tikhanovskaya has also created a Coordination Council, effectively a government in waiting, which is headed by Bialiatski. The council is drafting a new constitution and keeps in contact with key figures in Belarus to ensure that the exiled opposition does not become detached from those who are keeping up the pressure on Lukashenko from within.

The situation in Belarus is also being closely watched by the United Nations. Human Rights chief Michelle Bachelet recently presented her report on the aftermath of August’s elections to the 46th session of the Human Rights Council at the end of February. Bachelet warned of a “human rights crisis” in the country and called for an immediate end to the policy of systematic intimidation used by the Belarusian authorities against peaceful protesters and for the release of political prisoners.

Viasna has supported a number of other rights organisations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch in calling on the Human Rights Council to establish a new mechanism on Belarus. Bialiatski explains that the situation in the country must be kept high up on the international agenda if there is any hope of bringing down Lukashenko’s regime.

“It is very important to continue to exercise international pressure on Belarus, pointing out that human rights have to be preserved in the country,” he says. “This help of international society is required today – not tomorrow, today. Because tomorrow it might be too late.”

Hope for the future. Bialiatski says it is impossible to predict what the coming weeks, and even days, will bring to the people of Belarus. He says the latest crackdown has had a “very, very intimating result. People are scared. ”

“One thing is for sure,” he continues. “The administrative and criminal charges, and punishments and sentences against the activists and human rights defenders will get harsher. This I can guarantee. The current power is continuing to tighten the screws.

“I ask myself often how long the people can continue to bear this pressure, and if they will continue to bear it much longer.”

There are hopes that the spring could bring another wave of protests in Belarus. Speaking during a trip to Finland last week, exiled opposition leader Tikhanovskaya said she expected mass protest against Lukashenko to start up again soon after a lull in public demonstrations due to the authorities brutal suppression.

Bialiatski shares some of her cautious optimism. “The crisis has not gone, we are not beyond it,” he says. “The disagreement, disapproval and unhappiness of the people is so strong that I think there will be another breakout soon.”

He says that it is only a matter of time before Lukashenko loses his grip on Belarus – be it a result of peaceful protests, international pressure or the deteriorating economic situation in the country, although most likely a combination of all three. “This is the first time we have clearly seen that the current regime is in the minority and this gives us a significant certainty that the regime, the current power, cannot stay much longer,” he says.

After spending most of his life tirelessly working to uphold human rights in the face of relentless persecution at the hands of the Belarusian authorities, Bialiatski has managed to retain faith that his country will one day become a free democracy. What gives him hope that this could finally be the turning point in Belarus’s history? The country’s young people, he says, who have led the movement against Lukashenko.

“These young people in Belarus who strive for a change have totally different values ​​to Lukashenko and his entourage,” he says. “And it’s difficult to change the minds of young people. They are born with it. They will keep on fighting. ”

https://genevasolutions.news/peace-humanitarian/belarus-human-rights-defender-says-crackdown-on-freedom-an-absolute-catastrophe

Four well-known human rights defenders are the 2020 Right Livelihood Laureates

October 1, 2020

On 1 October 2020 the Right Livelihood Foundation announced its 2020 Laureates.

The Right Livelihood Award has been honouring courageous changemakers since 1980. [For more on this award see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/award/97238E26-A05A-4A7C-8A98-0D267FDDAD59]

The 2020 Laureates are receiving the Awards for the following:

This year’s Laureates are united in their fight for equality, democracy, justice and freedom,” said Ole von Uexkull, Executive Director of the Right Livelihood Foundation. “Defying unjust legal systems and dictatorial political regimes, they successfully strengthen human rights, empower civil societies and denounce institutional abuses. This year’s selection of recipients highlights the increasing threats to democracy globally. It is high time that all of us in favour of democracy around the world stand up and support each other.”

The four Laureates, selected by an international Jury, will each receive a prize money of 1 million SEK. As in previous years, the Laureates were nominated in an open process where anyone could submit individuals and organisations for consideration. The Laureates will be honoured during a virtual Award Presentation on December 3, 2020.

For last year see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/09/26/right-livelihood-award-2019-lauds-practical-visionaries/

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2019 Franco-German Human Rights Prize to 14 human rights defenders

December 13, 2019

The Franco-German Human Rights and the Rule of Law Prize [for more indo see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/franco-german-prize-for-human-rights-and-the-rule-of-law] is awarded to human rights defenders around the world, but also to lawyers who represent the human rights defenders and journalists who work to make the truth known. Through this prize, France and Germany wish to show their support for the work of these individuals. [ for info on the previous round, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/12/07/franco-german-prize-for-human-rights-and-the-rule-of-law-awarded-for-second-time/%5D

The winners of the 2019 Franco-German Human Rights and the Rule of Law Prize are fighting battles in key fields such as the fight against torture and inhuman or degrading treatment, against forced disappearances, against violence on women, against discrimination of LGBT people and the promotion of gender equality.

The prize winners include:

  • Ales BIALIATSKI (Belarus)
  • Li WENZU (China)
  • El Nadim Center (Egypt)
  • Mr Ameha Mekonnen Asfaw (Ethiopia)
  • Ms Robin Chaurasiya (India)
  • Nasrin SOTOUDEH (Iran)
  • Amina HANGA (Nigeria)
  • Ms Miluska Del Carmen Luzquinos Tafur (Peru)
  • Ms Mary Aileen Bacalso (Philippines)
  • Ms Irina Biryukova (Russia)
  • Ms Delphine Kemneloum Djiraibe (Chad)
  • Ms Asena Gunal (Turkey)
  • Luz Mely REYES (Venezuela)
  • Mr Vu Quoc Ngu (Vietnam)

Li Wenzu (center) receives the 2019 Franco-German Human Rights and Rule of Law Award, presented by the French and German ambassadors to China at the French embassy in Beijing, December 11, 2019.

Li Wenzu (center) receives the 2019 Franco-German Human Rights and Rule of Law Award, presented by the French and German ambassadors to China at the French embassy in Beijing, December 11, 2019.

In her acceptance speech, Li said the award was a boost not just to her personally, but to all the hundreds of lawyers, rights activists and their families caught up in a nationwide crackdown that began in July 2015.

——

(From left) Robin Chaurasia receiving the award from Sonia Barney and Juergen Morhard on Thursday.

(From left) Robin Chaurasia receiving the award from Sonia Barney and Juergen Morhard

Mumbai-based women’s rights activist Robin Chaurasiya has won the Franco-German Award for Human Rights. Ms. Chaurasiya, who co-founded the non-profit Kranti in 2010, has worked for the betterment of girls born in the red-light areas of the city. Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany, Dr. Juergen Morhard, and the Consul General of France in Mumbai, Sonia Barbry, presented the award to Ms. Chaurasiya. “When I came to India from the U.S. to work with another NGO, I saw that many children were left on their own once they entered their teenage years. They would be locked in rooms for the slightest mischief,” she said. She believed these children had many talents but did not have the environment to flourish. “I recall they were only being taught how to make pickles and do basic work. I feel we need to get rid of these notions and let them pursue their passion, which could be the ambition to become a doctor or an engineer,” she said. Ms. Das said she met Ms. Chaurasiya at the NGO. “It motivated us to start this initiative. We nurture and help these women fulfil what they want for themselves, not the other way round. If someone wants to study something like music, we look for the best places where they can be enrolled. One of our members is now a music therapist.”

—-

Günal received the prize at a ceremony held at the Embassy of Germany in Ankara on 16 December. Receiving the prize, Asena Günal made a speech in brief:

As someone working in the field of culture, it would not have occurred to me that I would receive a prize in the field of human rights. As the honorable Ambassador has said ‘cultural rights are more than just an ingredient to the international human rights framework. Participation in cultural life of the society on the one hand, freedom of expression on the other are indispensable rights of every human being’. However, for many years in Turkey, participation in cultural life and freedom of artistic expression remained as a side issue, because there were more pressing concerns such as torture, enforced disappearance and imprisonment. The struggle for human rights was the one carried out by those keeping watch day and night at the Human Rights Association in case someone appealed for help, lawyers who ran to police stations when people were detained, Saturday Mothers who gathered every week despite all obstacles.

Today, the field of human rights in Turkey has expanded to include culture. There are two reasons for this: One of them is that people have become aware of the importance of considering access to artistic expression and culture and arts in the framework of human rights. The other reason is that state oppression on culture, arts and civil society has increased. Here, I would like to particularly underline the ongoing unjust detention of Osman Kavala that began two years ago and the following oppression and unfounded allegations that made him a target. In trying times like these, such awards give the motivation to persevere, and make you feel that your efforts are worthwhile. I have never been alone in this process:


 

https://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/en/country-files/germany/events/article/2019-franco-german-human-rights-and-the-rule-of-law-prize-10-dec-2019

https://www.rfa.org/english/women/li-wenzu-franco-german-prize-12132019114110.html

Human Rights Tulip makes public its 2015 Jury

September 10, 2015

Transparency in the composition of the jury of human rights awards is not always very high, so the announcement by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the composition of its 2105 Tulip jury is to be welcomed:

Ugandan Margaret Sekaggya is to chair the jury. She is a human rights lawyer who from 2008 until 2014 was UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders. She is the founder and Executive Director of the Human Rights Centre Uganda and sits on the Board of a number of NGOs, including True Heroes Films.

Ales Bialiatski is a distinguished human rights defender from Belarus and the founder of the Viasna Human Rights Center.

Nicola Jägers is a professor international human rights law and her research is mainly focused on the expansion of trade beyond borders and the universaling effects of the human rights movement.

Shahzad Ahmed has made his voice known by fighting against online censorship in Pakistan.

Amira Yahyaoui is a Tunisian blogger, activist and founder of the NGO Al Bawsala.

For more on awards, see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/11/27/my-post-number-1000-human-rights-awards-finally-made-accessible-for-and-by-true-heroes/

Source: Human rights defender Margaret Sekaggya Sekaggya to chair the Human Rights Tulip 2015 Jury | News item | Human Rights Tulip

UN recognizes that Belarus violated the freedom of association of Ales Bialiatski

November 19, 2014

The UN Human Rights Committee decided on 24 September 2014 that Belarus had violated the freedom of association of Ales Bialiatski, President of Human Rights Centre “Viasna”. This groundbreaking decision is not limited to Belarus but concerns all signatory States that violate the freedom of association. The interpretation could benefit other human rights defenders who are under pressure from political and administrative measures to curtail their right to freedom of association. The text of the press release issued by FIDH (whose Director General represented the victim) on 17 November follows:

Paris-Minsk, 17 November 2014 – In a decision that will go down in history, on 24 September 2014 the UN Human Rights Committee officially recognized that the Republic of Belarus violated the rights of Ales Bialiatski, President of Human Rights Centre “Viasna” and FIDH Vice President. The Committee recognized violations of Article 9 (the right to liberty and security of the person), Article 14 (the right to justice and a fair trial), and Article 22 (freedom of association) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). This decision follows an individual communication from Ales Bialiatski’s spouse Natalia Pinchuk, represented by FIDH Director General Antoine Bernard. It sends a strong signal to regimes that manipulate their legislation to stifle critical voices and violate the freedom of association.

After Viasna was deprived of its state registration in 2003, its founders applied for registration at the Ministry of Justice three times between 2007 and 2009. However, the state refused registration every time. As a result, Viasna was unable to open a bank account in its name and receive funding for its activities. According to the Committee, Belarus violated the organization’s right to freedom of association when it denied Viasna registration, basing its decision solely on the argument that the documents submitted by Viasna needed minor adjustments to meet the requirements of the Ministry of Justice which could have been corrected should the Ministry had given it an opportunity to do so. The refusal to register Viasna rendered its activities illegal within Belarus and prevented its members from accessing their rights. Sentencing Ales Bialiatski to a lengthy prison term for actions associated with the receipt and expenditure of funds aimed at carrying out the legitimate activities of his organization was a direct consequence of the violation of freedom of association. The Belarusian courts rejected evidence that these funds were intended and used for these purposes and did not consider the case in a way that would aim to safeguard the freedom of association. Consequently, imposing criminal liability on Ales Bialiatski violated this freedom.

“This decision by the Human Rights Committee, based on international law, recognizes the legitimacy of Viasna’s activities and fully rehabilitates Ales Bialiatski”, rejoiced Valentin Stefanovic, Vice President of Viasna.

The Committee also found that Ales Bialiatski’s detention during the initial investigation was arbitrary, since the decision to arrest him was made by the procurator/prosecutor and not the court and was based solely on the gravity of charges and not on any evidence that this measure was needed or advisable.

The Committee found that over the course of criminal proceedings, Ales Bialiatski’s presumption of innocence was violated, as seen in treatment of the case by state media and statements by the president of Belarus. They presumed Ales Bialiatski’s guilt before the court’s verdict took effect. Also, he was wrongfully kept in a cage during the trial and brought into the courtroom in handcuffs.

The Committee’s decision states that Bialiatski is entitled to legal remedies: reconsideration of Viasna’s application for state registration, clearing of his criminal record, adequate compensation, including reimbursement of fines paid in accordance with judicial decisions. Furthermore, the Committee found that the State should review its laws on associations and bring them into accord with Article 22 of the ICCPR.

“The Committee has communicated the decision to the State, which is now obliged to provide Ales Bialiatski with legal remedies”, said Karim Lahidji, FIDH President. “This decision is crucial for Viasna, other Belarusian human rights organizations and the respect for liberty of association all over the world, as numerous regimes try to stifle critical voices”.

The decision reached by the Committee on this case sets a precedent. It clearly demonstrates that the actions of a state aimed at obstructing the activities of human rights organizations – from refusing to register an association to prosecuting its members for exercising their right to associate—are in violation of international law. No manipulation of internal legislation by individual states can hide these violations from the international community.

Our organizations consider this decision a source of expert legal arguments in the face of ever increasing pressure on human rights defenders and their organizations.

for earlier posts see https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/ales-bialiatski/

UN recognizes that Belarus violated the rights of Ales ….

Good NEWS: Ales Bialiatski – Belarus’ best-known human rights defender – freed from prison

June 22, 2014
On 21 June 2014 it was reported by AP and others that prominent Belarusian human rights defender  Ales Bialiatski was finally released from prison that day. The 51-year-old leader of the NGO Vyasna, was released 20 months ahead of schedule. Supporters greeted Bialiatski at a train station in the capital, Minsk, after he traveled from prison.”The international support and the support back home, this is what brought about my release,” Bialiatski told reporters, “I will continue to do what Ive been doing.”   [6 people remain in prison for political activism, including former presidential candidate Nikolai Statkevich]

via Belarus human rights leader freed from prison after 3 years in possible gesture to West | Star Tribune.

for earlier posts on Ales Bialiatski: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/ales-bialiatski/

Human rights defenders call for release political prisoners during Ice Hockey World Championship in Belarus

April 25, 2014

Libereco, a Swiss-German human rights organisation, called on Lukashenka to grant amnesty to the Belarusian political prisoners on the occasion of the Ice Hockey World Championship, The statement on Libereco’s website reads that nine people remain under arrest for political reasons in Belarus. They are former presidential candidate Mikalai Statkevich, Ales Bialiatski, activists Ihar Alinevich, Mikalai Dziadok, Andrei Haidukou, Eudard Lobau, Vasili Parfiankou, Artsiom Prakapenka and Yauhen Vaskovich.

Interesting to note that the appeal to Lukashenka was signed by Christoph Strässer, the German Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy; Read the rest of this entry »

Multiple Exposure: Front Line’s video programme for Human Rights Defenders

March 22, 2014


This blog wants keep you informed of what happens to human rights defenders and on what they do to protect the rights of others. I have also a special interest in the power of images in this area.  So, I draw your attention to “Multiple Exposure”  a monthly video magazine broadcast by Front Line Defenders, now in its 5th episode. Segments in the series will offer a behind-the-scenes peek at the difficulty of carrying out human rights work in different countries; more information about trends and political developments that directly impact human rights; and profiles of individual human rights defenders at risk.

Episode 5 covers the finalists of the 2014 Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders

Pakistan: SAWERA – Recipient of the 2014 Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk
SAWERA was selected from a total of 110 nominees from 51 countries on the basis of the NGO’s exceptional courage in defending the rights of women and girls in a region where groups working on these issues face extreme risks.
Bangladesh: Adilur Rahman Khan- Finalist of the 2014 Front Line Defenders Award
Adilur Rahman Khan is the Secretary of Odhikar, a human rights organisation founded in 1994 to raise awareness of human rights abuses and to create a vibrant democratic system through election monitoring.

Kenya: Lydia Mukami – Finalist of the 2014 Front Line Defenders Award
Lydia Mukami is the chair of the Mwea Foundation, a grass-roots organisation of rice farmers in the Mwea constituency of Kirinyaga county, in the Central Province of Kenya.

Belarus: Ales Bialiatski – Finalist of the 2014 Front Line Defenders Award
In a country where almost all independent critical voices have been silenced, Ales Bialiatski is one of the few people prepared to champion civil liberties, human rights and the rule of law.

Honduras: Berta Caceres – Finalist of the 2014 Front Line Defenders Award
Berta Caceres is a Lenca indigenous woman who has been on the front lines defending the territory and the rights of the indigenous Lenca people for the last 20 years.

United Arab Emirates: Dr Mohamed Al Roken – Finalist of the 2014 Front Line Defenders Award
Dr Mohamed Al Roken is a leading lawyer and human rights defender in the United Arab Emirates. Despite official hostility and restrictive laws designed to curtail human rights activities, Mohamed has remained a champion of the rule of law and respect for universal human rights.

Multiple Exposure | Front Line.