Ales Bialiatski

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Ales Bialiatski
Alaksandr Bialacki.jpg
Born (1962-09-25) 25 September 1962 (age 55)
Vyartsilya, Karelian ASSR, Soviet Union
Nationality Belarussian
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
Awards Václav Havel Award for Human Rights (2013)
With Jan Wyrowiński, Irena Lipowicz and Olgierd Dziekoński during the Paweł Włodkowic Award ceremony in the Polish Senate (2014)

Ales Bialiatski (Belarusian: Алесь Бяляцкі/Aleś Bialacki, sometimes transliterated as Ales Bialacki, Ales Byalyatski, Alies Bialiacki and Alex Belyatsky) is a Belarusian civic leader and former prisoner of conscience known for his work with the Human Rights Centre “Viasna”

Background[edit]

Bialiatski was born in Vyartsilya, in today's Karelia, Russia, to Belarusian parents.[1] His father Viktar Bialiatski is native to the Rahačoŭ District, his mother Nina comes from the Naroŭlia District. In 1965 the family returned to Belarus to settle in Svietlahorsk, Homieĺ Region.

Bialiatski is a scholar of Belarusian literature,[2] graduated from Homiel State University in 1984 with a degree in Russian and Belarusian Philology. During his student days, Bialiatski met several people who later became famous authors, including Anatol Sys, Eduard Akulin, Siarzhuk Sys, and Anatol Kazlou.

Upon graduation, Bialiatski worked as a schoolteacher in the Lieĺčycy District, Homieĺ Region.

In 1985-1986 he served in the army as an armoured vehicle driver in an antitank artillery battery near Yekaterinburg (then Sverdlovsk), Russia.

Activism[edit]

In the early 1980s, Bialiatski became involved in a number of pro-democracy initiatives, including a group called Belarusian Clandestine Party “Independence” aiming to foster Belarus’s leaving the Soviet Union and forming a sovereign and democratic country. The group published an illegal outlet called “Burachok” and co-organized the first-ever anti-Soviet protests, most notably the Dziady demonstrations in 1987 and 1988, a protest against the construction of the Daugavpils hydro-electric power plant, a rally protesting the demolition of the Upper Town architectural heritage in Minsk, and a memorial ceremony at Kurapaty in 1988. In December 1987 Bialiatski was on the organizing committee of the 1st Assembly of Belarusian Communities.

In 1989 Bialiatski received a PhD from the Belarusian Academy of Sciences. During his doctoral studies, Bialiatski helped found the Tutejshyja Association of Young Writers, serving as the group's chairman from 1986–1989, which resulted in harassment from the Academy administration. In 1988 Bialiatski co-organized the Martyrology of Belarus. He was also one of the founding members of the Belarusian Popular Front and the Belarusian Catholic Community.

In 1989 Bialiatski worked as a junior researcher at the Museum of the History of the Belarusian literature. Later the same year, he was elected director of the Maksim Bahdanovich Literary Museum. Bialiatski left the museum in August 1998, after arranging several key exhibitions, including two in Minsk, one in the Maladziečna District and one in Yaroslavl, Russia.

During Bialiatski’s directorship, the museum hosted numerous public events on political, cultural and religious issues. In 1990 the museum building in central Minsk housed the editorial office of “Svaboda”, one of the first pro-democratic newspapers in Belarus. Bialiatski provided the legal address for dozens of NGOs, including the Human Rights Centre “Viasna” and the Centre “Supolnasts”. He invited several young authors, including Palina Kachatkova, Eduard Akulin, Siarhei Vitushka, and Ales Astrautsou, to work at the museum.

Bialiatski was member of the Minsk City Council of Deputies between 1991 and 1996. On 20 August 1991, the day after the Moscow coup attempt, he, together with 29 other members of the Council, made an open appeal to the people of Minsk “to be faithful to the legally elected authorities and to seek all constitutional means in order to end the activities of the State Emergency Committee”. On 5 September 1991, after the Minsk City Council approved the use of national symbols, Bialiatski brought a white-red-white flag to the Council chamber. The flag was the first to be officially flown on the building of the Minsk City Council.

Bialiatski was Secretary of the Belarusian Popular Front (1996-1999) and deputy chairman of the BPF (1999-2001). [3]

Bialiatski founded the Human Rights Centre “Viasna” in 1996. The Minsk-based organization which was then called “Viasna-96”, was transformed into a nation-wide NGO in June 1999. On 28 October 2003 the Supreme Court of Belarus cancelled the state registration of the Human Rights Centre "Viasna" for its role in the observation of the 2001 presidential election. Since then, the leading Belarusian human rights organization has been working without registration. [4]

Bialiatski was chairman of the Working Group of the Assembly of Democratic NGOs (2000-2004).

In 2007-2016, he was Vice-President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). [5]

Bialiatski is a member of the Union of Belarusian Writers (since 1995) and the Belarusian PEN-Centre (since 2009). [6]

August 2011 arrest and sentencing[edit]

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). [7] The indictment was made possible by financial records released by prosecutors in Lithuania and Poland. [8]

On 24 October 2011 Bialiatski was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison and confiscation of property. Bialiatski pleaded not guilty, saying that the money had been received on his bank accounts to cover Viasna’s human rights activities. [9]

Reaction[edit]

Belarusian human rights activists, as well as the European Union leaders, EU governments, and the United States said that Bialiatski was a political prisoner, calling his sentencing politically motivated. They urged the Belarusian authorities to release the human rights activist. On 15 September 2011 a special resolution the European Parliament called for Bialiatski’s immediate release.[10] The activist’s release was also requested by EP President Jerzy Buzek [11], EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, OSCE Chairman Eamon Gilmore [12], and the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus Miklós Haraszti [13].

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

  • On 11 August, Amnesty International declared Bialiatski a prisoner of conscience.[14]
  • 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.[15]
  • 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.[17]

Bialiatski served his sentence in penal colony number 2 in the city of Babrujsk, working as a packer in a sewing shop.

He was repeatedly punished by the prison administration for “violation of the prison rules", and was declared a “malicious offender”, which prevented him from being amnestied in 2012 and deprived him of family visits and food parcels.

During his time in prison, Bialiatski wrote many texts on literary topics, essays, memoirs, which were posted to his associates.

An unprecedented campaign of international solidarity was launched during his imprisonment.

Bialiatski was released from prison 20 months ahead of schedule on 21 June 2014 after spending 1,052 days of arbitrary detention in harsh conditions, including serving periods of solitary confinement. [18]

August 4, the day of Bialiatski’s arrest, is celebrated annually as the International Day of Solidarity with the Civil Society of Belarus. It was established in 2012 as a response to the activist’s arrest. [19]

International recognition[edit]

In March 2006, Bialiatski and Viasna won the 2005 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".[20] The prize was awarded by former Czech President and dissident Václav Havel. In 2006, Bialiatski won the Swedish Per Anger Prize,[21] named for Swedish diplomat Per Anger 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".

In 2006 Bialiatski received the "Andrei Sakharov Freedom Award" by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.

Bialiatski is honorary citizen of Genoa (province of Liguria, Italy), 2010.

National Award for Human Rights. Human Rights Activist of the Year. Belarus. 2011.

Freedom of Speech Diploma. Norwegian Union of Writers. Ytringsfrihetsprisen 2011. Norway. 2012

Honorary citizen of Paris, 2012.

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.

In 2012 Bialiatski won the Lech Wałęsa Award for "democratisation of the Republic of Belarus, his active promotion of human rights and aid provided for persons currently persecuted by Belarusian authorities". [22]

In 2012, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe awarded him its Václav Havel Human Rights Prize for his work as a human rights defender, "so that the citizens of Belarus may one day aspire to our European standards".[23].As he was detained at the time, the award was received on his behalf by his wife. After his release, he visited Strasbourg to thank the Assembly for its support.

Ales Adamovich Literary Prize. Belarusian PEN-Centre. Belarus, 2014.

Civil Rights Defender of the Year 2014. Sweden, 2014. [24]

Honorary citizen of Syracuse (Sicily, Italy). 2014.

Bialiatski has been five times nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize [25], including in 2006 and 2007. In 2012 he was again nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, but the prize was awarded to the European Union. In February 2013 he was nominated by the Norwegian MP Jan Tore Sanner. In 2014, members of the Polish Parliament nominated Bialiatski for the Nobel Peace Prize. The nomination was signed by 160 Polish MPs.

References in art and media[edit]

In 2013 Dmitri Plax produced a play about Bialiatski for the Swedish Radio.

Viktar Sazonau’s book “The Poetry of the Prose”, 2013, has a dedication to Ales Bialiatski. One of the stories in book entitled “A Postcard from the Political Prisoner Postcard” is based on Bialiatski’s experience .[26]

Uladzimir Siuchykau’s essay “The Sweet Word of Freedom!” published in the compilation “Night Notes”. Appendix “Literary Belarus” No. 4 (92) in the newspaper “Novy Chas”. 25 April 2014 / No. 16 (385).[27]

Uladzimir Niakliayeu’s poem “Rymtseli” dedicated to the 50th anniversary of human rights defender Ales Bialiatski.[28]

Siarzhuk Sys’s poem “To Ales Bialiatski”.[29]

Mikhas Skobla’s essay “A Letter to Ales Bialiatski”.[30]

Feature film "Vyshe Neba” (Above the Sky", directed by Dmitry Marinin and Andrey Kureychik, 2012) features an episode depicting Ales Bialiatski’s arrest shown in the news of the TV channel Belarus-1 (56th minute).[31]

Documentary “Ales Bialiatski’s Candle of Truth” (written by Palina Stsepanenka, 2011, Belarus).[32]

Documentary “Spring” (directed by Volha Shved, 2012, Belarus).[33]

Documentary “A Heart That Never Dies” (directed by Erling Borgen, 2015, Norway).[34]

Documentary “1,050 days of Solitude” (director Aleh Dashkevich, 2014 Belarus).[35]

Artist Ai Weiwei constructed Ales Bialiatski’s portrait from Lego bricks. The work was displayed at the exhibition “Next” in the Hishhorn Museum in Washington, DC.[36]

Ales Bialiatski’s portrait by artist Uladzimir Vishneuski. Featured in Bialiatski’s book “The Cold Wing of Motherland”.[37]


Bibliography[edit]

  • «Літаратура і нацыя». 1991.[38]
  • «Прабежкі па беразе Жэнеўскага возера». 2006.
  • «Асьвечаныя беларушчынай». 2013.[39]
  • «Іртутнае срэбра жыцьця». 2014.[40]
  • «Халоднае крыло Радзімы». 2014.[41]
  • «Бой з сабой». 2016.[42]
  • 20-Я Вясна. Зборнік эсэ і ўспамінаў сяброў Праваабарончага цэнтра «Вясна». 2016. (А. Бяляцкі. с. 7-20; 189-203.[43])


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.

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.

References[edit]

  1. ^ [A. Tamkovich (2014) Contemporary History in Faces. р.165-173. ББК 84 УДК 823 Т 65]
  2. ^ [A. Tamkovich (2014) Contemporary History in Faces. р.165-173. ББК 84 УДК 823 Т 65]
  3. ^ [A. Tamkovich (2014) Contemporary History in Faces. р.165-173. ББК 84 УДК 823 Т 65]
  4. ^ [About Viasna]
  5. ^ [Ales Bialiatski reelected FIDH Vice-President]
  6. ^ [A. Tamkovich (2014) Contemporary History in Faces. р.165-173. ББК 84 УДК 823 Т 65]
  7. ^ [] Ales Bialiatski: Two years since politically motivated verdict]
  8. ^ [The Norwegian Helsinki Committee demands the immediate release of Ales Bialiatski]
  9. ^ [Results of monitoring of trial of Ales Bialiatski]
  10. ^ [European Parliament resolution on Belarus: the arrest of human rights defender Ales Bialatski]
  11. ^ [EP President urges to release Byalyatski and other political prisoners]
  12. ^ [Bialiatski should be set free, says OSCE Chairperson]
  13. ^ [UN expert urges authorities to release Ales Bialiatski]
  14. ^ [Belarus must free activist held on tax evasion charges]
  15. ^ [International mobilisation of the FIDH network to demand the release of Ales Bialiatski]
  16. ^ [Call for immediate and unconditional release of Ales Bialiatski]
  17. ^ [Belarus: Leading Rights Defender Detained]
  18. ^ [Ales Bialiatski Free at Last!]
  19. ^ [The International Day of Solidarity with the Civil Society of Belarus]
  20. ^ ["Homo Homini Award". People in Need. 2005. Retrieved 3 June 2011.]
  21. ^ ["Aliaksandr Bialiatski, Belarus" (PDF). Eastern Partnership. 2009. Retrieved 3 June 2011.]
  22. ^ ["Ales Belyatsky laureate of the 2012 Lech Wałęsa Award". Lech Walesa Institute. Retrieved 9 October 2012.]
  23. ^ ["Václav Havel Human Rights Prize 2013 awarded to Ales Bialiatski". Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. 30 September 2013. Retrieved 30 April 2014.]
  24. ^ [Civil Rights Defender of the Year 2014 – Ales Bialiatski]
  25. ^ ["Ales Bialiatski nominated for Nobel Peace Prize again". spring96.org. Retrieved 20 April 2016.]
  26. ^ [Паэзія прозы]
  27. ^ [Гэта салодкае слова - свабода!]
  28. ^ [РЫМЦЕЛІ. Алесю Бяляцкаму]
  29. ^ [Алесю Бяляцкаму]
  30. ^ [Ліст да Алеся Бяляцкага]
  31. ^ [«Выше неба»]
  32. ^ [«Сьвечка праўды Алеся Бяляцкага»]
  33. ^ [«Вясна», дак. фільм пра Алеся Бяляцкага.]
  34. ^ [A Heart That Never Dies. A Series About Civil Courage & Human Rights]
  35. ^ [1050 дзён самоты]
  36. ^ [Ai Weiwei: Trace at Hirshhorn]
  37. ^ [Халоднае крыло Радзімы.]
  38. ^ [Літаратура і нацыя.]
  39. ^ [Асьвечаныя беларушчынай.]
  40. ^ [Іртутнае срэбра жыцьця.]
  41. ^ [Халоднае крыло Радзімы.]
  42. ^ [Бой з сабой]
  43. ^ [20-Я Вясна.]

External links[edit]