25 September 1962 |
Vyartsilya, Karelian ASSR, Soviet Union
|Other names||Ales Bialacki, Ales Byalyatski, Aleś Bialacki, Alies Bialiacki, Aliaksandr Bialiatski|
|Employer||Viasna Human Rights Centre|
|Known for||Human rights activism|
|Awards||Václav Havel Award for Human Rights (2013)|
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.
Bialiatski was born in Vyartsilya, in today's Karelia, Russia, to Belarusian parents. He is a scholar of Belarusian literature, graduated from Francishak Skaryna Homiel State University. Bialiatski also received a PhD from the Belarusian Academy of Sciences. He is a member of the Belarusian Writers Union, and helped to found the Tutejshyja Association of Young Writers, serving as the group's chairman from 1986–1989.
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. 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.
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.
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". In 2006, he won the Per Anger Prize, 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".
Bialiatski has been the vice president of the International Federation for Human Rights since 2007, a post he still holds as of February 2013. In 2006 Bialiatski received the "Andrei Sakharov Freedom Award" by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.
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. 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.
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". The ceremony of presenting the Lech Walesa Award was held at Artus Manor in Gdansk. The award was received by Natallia Pinchuk.
In 2012, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. In 2013, Bialiatski was reelected as one of the 15 FIDH Vice President. 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".
August 2011 arrest
On 4 August 2011 Ales Bialiatski was arrested under charges of tax evasion (“concealment of profits on an especially large scale”, Article 243, part 2 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus). 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. Radoslaw Sikorski, Poland's Foreign Minister, subsequently apologized for the "reprehensible mistake", and Lithuania issued an apology as well.
- On 11 August, Amnesty International declared Bialiatski a prisoner of conscience.
- 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.
- 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."
- "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.
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." 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."
On 24 October 2011, Bialiatski was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison for "concealment of income on a large scale."
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.". 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.
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. 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.
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. Amnesty International described the closure as "a blatant violation of Belarus' international human rights obligations".
Release 21 June 2014
Mr Bialiatski who is President of the Viasna Human Rights Centre of Belarus was released from prison 20 months ahead of schedule on 21 June 2014 after 1052 days of arbitrary detention in harsh conditions, including serving periods of solitary confinement.
On 11 November 2014 Syracuse's city council has given the Honorary citizenship to Ales Bialiatski at the instance of the local group of Amnesty International, 85 group of AI Italy, as a symbol of the strong defence of human rights in Europe. On the 26th February 2015 he came to Siracusa to receive the physical award.
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.
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.
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