ODIHR Director: Belarus violates OSCE commitments


On November 25, 2013 Ambassador Janez Lenarčič, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) reminded the Belarusian authorities of previous calls by OSCE Chairpersons-in-Office for the release of human rights defender Ales Bialiatski and added his voice to theirs, calling Bialiatski’s case a violation of OSCE commitments.

Noting that Sunday was the second anniversary of Bialiatski’s conviction, Lenarčič highlighted Bialiatski’s case while expressing concern over the general situation for human rights defenders in Belarus.

“The offence for which Bialiatsky was found guilty was the direct result of the authorities’ refusal to allow his organization to work to promote and protect human rights in Belarus,” Lenarčič said. “Belarus has committed itself to enhance, rather than obstruct, the ability of NGOs to promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. But Bialiatski’s conviction is the result of just such obstruction.”

Lithuania’s then Foreign Minister, Audronius Ažubalis, and Ireland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Eamon Gilmore, each issued calls for Bialiatski’s immediate release during their countries’ OSCE chairmanships, in 2011 and 2012, respectively.

“None of this, the charges and subsequent conviction, would have happened had Viasna not been repeatedly denied registration – had Bialiatski not been denied his fundamental right to freedom of association,” Lenarčič said. “Like all OSCE participating States, Belarus has committed itself to guaranteeing that right.”

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In November, 2011 Ales Bialiatski, Head of Viasna human rights center, was sentenced to 4.5-year confinement in a medium security penal colony and confiscation of property for alleged large-scale tax evasion.
The fact of Bialiatski’s holding bank accounts in Poland and Lithuania gave the grounds for criminal prosecution. The cash standing to the credit of accounts was used for human rights defence activity: the centre financially supported the people affected by Lukashenka’s regime. In court Bialiatski stated that he had no other possibility of getting financial aid from foreign backers. Opening accounts in Belarus turned out to be impossible since the Belarusian authorities repeatedly denied an official registration to Viasna human rights center.

www.belsat.eu/en, via osce.org

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