BELARUS: Ales Bialiatski freed after almost three years behind bars

Press release

Paris-Geneva, June 26, 2014. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of FIDH and OMCT, welcomes the release on June 21, 2014 of Ales Bialiatski, President of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” and Vice-President of FIDH, after almost three years spent in jail.

On June 21, 2014, Ales Bialiatski was granted an amnesty by the Belarusian authorities and released the same day. He was arrested on August 4, 2011 on politically motivated charges of “fiscal evasion”, and sentenced three months later to four and a half years of imprisonment in a penal colony of high security. He was subjected to especially harsh detention conditions. He was repeatedly denied the right to receive visits from his wife, food parcels and other inmates were forbidden to communicate with him, thus imposing years of de facto solitary confinement.

“It is a great joy to see Ales released, after nearly three years of intensive campaign to get him out of jail” said Karim Lahidji, FIDH President. “His liberation should pave the way for the effective guarantee of the right to promote and protect human rights in Belarus”, he added.

“We are very happy to welcome back our colleague Ales. His release today does not change the fact that his detention was arbitrary and that he had to suffer under conditions of imprisonment underlying the political nature of the case. The international community needs to stay vigilant about the situation of human rights and of those defending the rights of others in Belarus”, said Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General.

Despite the amnesty, Ales Bialiatski will be subjected to travel restriction measures (known as “preventive control” measures in Belarus) for a yet unknown period of time. On June 23, 2014, the human rights defender had to sign a document acknowledging that he would have to report to a district police department once a month, that he would not commit more than three administrative offences in a year, and that he would not travel out of Belarus for longer than a month.

The Observatory welcomes the amnesty of Ales Bialiatski and thanks all the persons, institutions and organisations who intervened on his behalf. It remains however concerned that the above-mentioned travel restrictions measures intend to hinder his human rights activities and calls for their revocation. Furthermore, the Observatory further urges the Belarusian authorities to stop immediately all acts of harassment and intimidation against human rights defenders in Belarus and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their work without unjustified hindrance and fear of reprisals.

See also the campaign #ForFreedom launched by FIDH in March to accelerate the release of arbitrarily detained human rights defenders throughout the world, including Ales Bialiatski.

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