Freedom House Calls for Release of Belarusian Human Rights Defender
On the one-year anniversary of the arrest of prominent Belarusian human rights defender Ales Bialiatski, Freedom House reiterates its call for his immediate release, as well as the release of other political prisoners in Belarus.
Bialatski, the head of Viasna Human Rights Center and vice-chairman of International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), was arrested by Belarusian authorities in 2011 on charges of tax evasion and sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison. It is widely believed that his arrest was connected to his professional activities in assisting victims arrested during December 2010 election protests. His imprisonment has been exacerbated by multiple denials of appeals and reprimands for alleged violations of prison rules.
“The imprisonment of Ales Bialiatski is clearly political and shows yet again that the Belarusian regime is determined to suppress the fundamental freedoms of its citizens,” said Susan Corke, director of Eurasia programs at Freedom House.
Bialiatski has led the Viasna Human Rights Center since 1996 and is well known for his dedication to providing legal and financial assistance to political prisoners and their families. Following extensive international attention and advocacy, Ales Bialiatski was officially confirmed as a nominee for the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize. A number of civil society networks comprising the Committee on International Control over the Human Rights Situation in Belarus announced the anniversary of Bialiatski’s arrest, August 4, as the International Day of Solidarity with Civil Society and Human Rights Movement in Belarus. On this day, events commemorating the work of Bialiatski and other Belarusian human rights defenders will take place in Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, UK, Germany, Sweden and other countries.
“The U.S. government and international policy makers must send a strong message that there will be no business as usual with Lukashenka,” continued Corke. “They must make it clear that no concessions will be made to Belarus until all political prisoners are released and rehabilitated, and human rights activists are no longer persecuted.”
For over a decade, Belarus has been rated Not Free in Freedom House’s annual Freedom in the World survey and is among the “Worst of the Worst” of the world’s most repressive societies.
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