Ales Bialiatski

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Ales Bialiatski
Alaksandr Bialacki.jpg
Born (1962-09-25) 25 September 1962 (age 51)
Vyartsilya, Karelian ASSR, Soviet Union
Nationality Belarus
Other names Ales Bialacki, Ales Byalyatski, Aleś Bialacki, Alies Bialiacki, Aliaksandr Bialiatski
Employer Viasna Human Rights Centre
Known for Human rights activism
Spouse(s) Natallia Pinchuk

Ales Bialiatski (Belarusian: Алесь Бяляцкі/Aleś Bialacki, sometimes transliterated as Ales Bialacki, Ales Byalyatski, Alies Bialiacki and Alex Belyatsky) is a Belarusian political activist known for his work with Viasna Human Rights Centre, of which he is currently the head and the founding of the BPF Party. He is the vice president of the International Federation for Human Rights. Bialiatski has received the Homo Homini Award and the Per Anger Prize for his efforts in promoting human rights and democracy. He was arrested by Belarusian authorities on tax evasion charges in 2011.

Background[edit]

Bialiatski was born in Vyartsilya, in today's Karelia, Russia, to Belarusian parents.[1] He is a scholar of Belarusian literature,[1] graduated from Francishak Skaryna Homiel State University.[2] Bialiatski also received a PhD from the Belarusian Academy of Sciences.[3] He is a member of the Belarusian Writers Union,[1] and helped to found the Tutejshyja Association of Young Writers, serving as the group's chairman from 1986–1989.[1]

Activism[edit]

In the 1980s, he also became actively involved in anti-Soviet protests. One notable event he helped to organize was a memorial ceremony at Kurapaty, the site of thousands of killings by the NKVD in the late 1930s.[1] Bialiatski was also one of the founding members of the Belarusian Popular Front.

Bialiatski founded the Viasna Human Rights Centre in 1996. The Minsk-based organization provides financial and legal assistance to political prisoners and their families.[1]

According to the International Federation for Human Rights, on 14 February 2011, Bialiatski was summoned to the Public Prosecutor's office and warned that as Viasna was an unregistered organization, the government would seek criminal proceedings against it if the group continued to operate.[4]

International recognition[edit]

In 2005, Bialiatski and Viasna won the Homo Homini Award of the Czech NGO People in Need, which recognizes "an individual who is deserving of significant recognition due to their promotion of human rights, democracy and non-violent solutions to political conflicts".[1] In 2006, he won the Per Anger Prize,[3] named for Swedish diplomat Per Anger and awarded to an individual who "promotes democracy and humanitarian efforts, is characterized by active measures and initiative, works for no personal gain, takes great personal risks, displays great courage and is a role model for others".[5]

Bialiatski has been the vice president of the International Federation for Human Rights since 2007, a post he still holds as of February 2013.[4]

In 2012, Ales Bialiatski together with Uganda's Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law became the winner of the 2011 Human Rights Defenders Award by the US Department of State.[6] Ales Bialiatski was awarded the prize in absentia, the award was passed to his wife Natallia Pinchuk in the US Embassy in Warsaw, Poland, on 25 September 2012.[7]

Ales Bialiatski also won 2012 Lech Wałęsa Award. He became the laureate of the award for "democratisation of the Republic of Belarus, his active promotion of human rights and aid provided for persons currently persecuted by Belarusian authorities".[8] The ceremony of presenting the Lech Walesa Award was held at Artus Manor in Gdansk. The award was received by Natallia Pinchuk.[9]

In 2012, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.[10] In 2013, Bialiatski was reelected as one of the 15 FIDH Vice President.[11] That same year, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe awarded him its Václav Havel Human Rights Award for his work as a human rights defender "so that the citizens of Belarus may one day aspire to our European standards".[12]

August 2011 arrest[edit]

On 4 August 2011 Ales Bialiatski was arrested under charges of tax evasion[13] (“concealment of profits on an especially large scale”, Article 243, part 2 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus).[14] This article includes penalties of up to 7 years imprisonment and the confiscation of property. The indictment was made possible by financial records released by prosecutors in Lithuania and Poland.[13] Radoslaw Sikorski, Poland's Foreign Minister, subsequently apologized for the "reprehensible mistake", and Lithuania issued an apology as well.[15]

Reaction[edit]

Several international human rights non-governmental organisations called for Bialiatski's "immediate and unconditional release".[16]

  • On 11 August, Amnesty International declared Bialiatski a prisoner of conscience.[17]
  • On 12 September, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) launched a campaign to advocate for Bialiatski's release and inform more generally about political prisoners in Belarus.[18]
  • Tatsiana Reviaka, Bialiatski's colleague at Viasna and the President of the Belarusian Human Rights House in Vilnius, said that "the reason behind these charges is the fact that our organisation Viasna has been providing different assistance to victims of political repressions in Belarus."[16]
  • "Belyatsky's arrest is a clear case of retaliation against him and Viasna for their human rights work. It's the latest in a long series of efforts by the government to crush Belarus's civil society", Human Rights Watch said in a statement.[19]

France's Ambassador for Human Rights, Francois Zimeray, received Ales Bialatski's wife Natalia Bialiatski in Paris and expressed the full support of the French government.[20]

The Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski made a formal apology for the aid given Belarus and stated that prosecutors were "starting an inquiry to find out who was responsible for giving the information to Belarus, despite instructions from Poland's Foreign Ministry to use care in handling such requests from Minsk."[13] Andrei Savinykh, head of the Information Office, Press Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus, said that the Polish foreign ministry statement "demonstrates stunning nihilism of legal practices," according to BelTA. The statement went on to accuse Poland of allowing the end to justify the means and "that the malignant practice of artificial cultivation of pseudo-political formations, which are controlled from abroad, contradicts national laws and nurtures various crimes and abuses." It summarized the charges against Belyatsky by mentioning Viasna's unregistered status and saying the authorities believed he'd "failed to mention over Br1 billion in taxable revenues, with Br143.7 million in income tax unpaid."[21]

Sentencing[edit]

On 24 October 2011, Bialiatski was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison for "concealment of income on a large scale."[22]

The United Nations condemned the Belarusian courts for the excessive sentence, and called for his immediate release. A UN spokesperson expressed the concern that such a decision "will have a negative impact on the ability of civil society to operate freely and without fear.".[23] At its 64th session, the United Nations (UN) Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) adopted decision A/HRC/WGAD/2012/39, published on 23 November 2012 in which it found that the detention of Mr. Ales Bialiatski, was arbitrary.[24]

In September 2012, Bialiatski was announced the winner of the Lech Walesa Award. The jury for the award was chaired by former Polish president Lech Walesa, and included Mikulas Dzurinda, a former prime minister of Slovakia, and Bernard Kouchner, a former French Foreign Minister.[15] Bialiatski was also announced as a finalist for the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, named for Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, in October 2012. The prize ultimately went to Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and filmmaker Jafar Panahi.[25]

On 26 November 2012, in accordance with a court ruling against Bialatski, the Minsk office of Viasna was confiscated and sealed by the Belarusian government.[26] Amnesty International described the closure as "a blatant violation of Belarus' international human rights obligations".[27]

Private life[edit]

Ales Bialiatski is married to Natallia Pinchuk. They met in 1982 when Ales was a student of Francishak Skaryna Homiel State University and Nataliia studied in the pedagogical college in Lojeu. The couple married in 1987. Ales Bialiatski has a son named Adam.[2]

During his university years, Bialiatski played bass guitar in a band called Baski. He has stated that his two major hobbies now are mushroom hunting and planting flowers. He generally speaks the Belarusian language.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Homo Homini Award". People in Need. 2005. Retrieved 3 June 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c "10 Facts About Alies Bialiacki You Won't Learn from Wikipedia". Nasha Niva. 25 September 2012. Archived from the original on 21 November 2012. Retrieved 21 November 2012. 
  3. ^ a b "Aliaksandr Bialiatski, Belarus". Eastern Partnership. 2009. Retrieved 3 June 2011. 
  4. ^ a b "Warning against Mr. Ales Bialiatski". International Federation for Human Rights. 16 February 2011. Archived from the original on 1 May 2011. Retrieved 3 June 2011. 
  5. ^ "Bishop Bakare of Zimbabwe awarded the Per Anger prize". Per Anger Prize. 2008. Retrieved 3 June 2011. 
  6. ^ "US Department of State". US Department of State. Retrieved 9 October 2012. 
  7. ^ "Alies Bialiacki Awarded US Department of State's 2011 Human Rights Defenders Prize". Nasha Niva. 26 September 2012. Retrieved 9 October 2012. 
  8. ^ "Ales Belyatsky laureate of the 2012 Lech Wałęsa Award". Retrieved 9 October 2012. 
  9. ^ "Ceremony of Presenting the Lech Walesa Award to Ales Belyatsky". Retrieved 9 October 2012. 
  10. ^ Ales Bialiatski nominated for Nobel Peace Prize again http://spring96.org/en/news/61060
  11. ^ Ales Bialiatski reelected FIDH Vice-President
  12. ^ "Václav Havel Human Rights Prize 2013 awarded to Ales Bialiatski". Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. 30 September 2013. Retrieved 30 April 2014. 
  13. ^ a b c Gregory Feifer (12 August 2011). "Poland Apologizes For Information Leak on Belarusian Activist". RFE/RL. 
  14. ^ Human Rights Center Viasna (5 August 2011). "Statement of the Human Rights Center Viasna". Human Rights Center Viasna. Retrieved 10 August 2011. 
  15. ^ a b "Belarusian 'prisoner of conscience' wins Lech Walesa Award". Polskie Radio. 28 September 2012. Archived from the original on 28 September 2012. Retrieved 28 September 2012. 
  16. ^ a b Human Rights House Network (5 August 2011). "Statement of the Human Rights House Network and other international NGOs". Human Rights House Network. Retrieved 10 August 2011.  – Quote: "Ales Bialiatski’s arrest is a new step to repress civil society and legitimise human rights activities in Belarus – unprecedented repression has taken place in the country since 19 December 2010 and the authorities' attack against this prominent human rights defender shows their willingness to shut down critical voices."
  17. ^ Amnesty International прызнала Алеся Бяляцкага вязьнем сумленьняRadio Svaboda
  18. ^ Free Ales Bialiatski ! web site
  19. ^ "Belarus: Leading Rights Defender Detained". Human Rights Watch. 5 August 2011. Retrieved 10 August 2011. 
  20. ^ "Natalia Bialatski reçue au Quai d'Orsay" (in French). diplomatie.gouv.fr. 9 February 2012. Retrieved 11 May 2012. 
  21. ^ "Stunning legal nihilism in Poland’s statement on Alexander Belyatsky’s case", BelTA, 12 August 2011 16:23. Retrieved 15 August 2011.
  22. ^ "HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER SENTENCED: ALES BIALIATSKI". Online Database article. Retrieved 17 January 2011. 
  23. ^ "Belarus: UN voices concern at sentencing of leading human rights defender". Online database article. the United Nations. Retrieved 17 January 2011. 
  24. ^ http://www.fidh.org/BELARUS-Landmark-UN-decision-Ales-12668
  25. ^ Ramin Mostaghim (26 October 2012). "Iranian dissidents win esteemed human rights prize". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 26 October 2012. Retrieved 26 October 2012. 
  26. ^ Artur Smirnow (28 November 2012). "Minsk authorities close human rights office". Deutsche Welle. Archived from the original on 28 November 2012. Retrieved 28 November 2012. 
  27. ^ "Belarus evicts leading human rights organization". Amnesty International. 26 November 2012. Archived from the original on 28 November 2012. Retrieved 28 November 2012. 

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