Human rights defender: ‘Optimism on decrease’

Two years ago Ales Bialiatski, Head of human rights centre Viasna, was arrested. Since that time he has been behind bars. Do Belarusian political prisoners stand any chance of being released in the near future?

According to human rights defender Valiantsin Stefanovich, there might be another thaw in relations between Minsk and Brussels but conditions for their release are remote. “Now I am even less optimistic than I was this spring. I do not see any positive trends or right steps towards the dialogue with the EU,” Mr Stefanovich said. It is the European Union which was making approaches, he added.

Mr Stefanovich considers the first version of MEP Paleckis’ report on the situation in our country as a ‘classic example of Europe’s mistake’. According to Mr Paleckis, there was a visible progress in the field of human rights (the statement was reworded in the final report).

“He did refer to Viasna’s statistical data but made his own conclusions. We have never claimed any improvements in the human rights situation. Naturally, the number of violations might nave decreased but this fact results from political activity contraction after December 19, 2010,” Mr Stefanovich stressed.

In his opinion, the authorities have not signaled any intentions to make amendments to the current legislation.

“On the contrary, you might as well point out to facts of its more repressive and severe application. The political prisoners are still in prisons. Moreover, the situation has worsened since a number of criminal cases was initiated, including the case under the article on illegal activity on the part of an unregistered organisation,” Mr Stefanovich said.

He also reminded of a guilty verdict to Andrey Haydukou, a leader of unregistered organisation “The Union of Young Intellectuals” for ‘an attempt of establishing contacts with foreign intelligence services without signs of high treason’, and other criminal cases against former political prisoners Vasil Parfiankou and Uladzimir Yaromenak.

Ales Bialiatski was detained on August 4, 2011 in Minsk. In November. 2011 he was found guilty of large-scale tax evasion and sentenced to 4.5 years of imprisonment in a medium-security penal colony and confiscation of property.

The fact of his 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.



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