Ales Bialiatski is Vice-President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Director of the Human Rights Centre “Viasna” in Belarus. This organisation helps victims of political repression and campaigns to raise awareness in the world on human rights violations committed in Belarus.
In 2003, as many others associations, the Viasna Centre was closed by the Ministry of Justice, thus the Centre was forced to act illegally.
Deprived from its official registration, the Centre could no longer receive funds from abroad on a Belarusian account. Thus, to ensure the financing of its activities, Ales Bialiatski decided to open foreign accounts under his name while exercising a strict control on the sums received.
The Belarus authorities considered these funds as personal income subjected to registration and taxation, and without any declaration about these accounts, Ales Bialiatski was arrested on the 4 August 2011 on the ground of large-scale tax evasion. He was sentenced to four and a half years imprisonment under a strict regime penitentiary colony and to the confiscation of his properties, including the Viasna Centre.
The international community denounced the procedure applied for his trial. Indeed, the Belarus authorities denied a visa to many human rights observers who were wishing to participate on the trial. Moreover, personal and professional emails illegally obtained were used during trial as well as many evidences presented without any proof of their authenticity. In addition, all witnesses have been questioned about their implication in the Viasna Centre while it had no link with the tax evasion charge.
After nearly three years in detention, Ales Bialiatski received an amnesty on 21 June 2014.
The arrest of Ales Bialiatski came at a time of high tensions. Indeed, the re-election of President Lukashenko in December 2010 was heavily contested which led to a large repression against the political opponents and civil society.
In this context, and while they work to provide legal and material assistance to political victims, human rights defenders become the main targets of legal and fiscal instruments.
The first Václav Havel Human Rights Prize has been awarded to Belarusian human rights activist Ales Bialiatski in 2013.
Communications and statements
Some Special Rapporteurs, including Margaret Sekkagya, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders at this time, sent a communication to the State of Belarus regarding the situation faced by Ales Bialiatski for his defenders activities (available in English).
In 2014, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus issued a statement about the release of Ales Bialiatski. In this press release, the Special Rapporteur welcomes this release but recalls that many others human rights defenders and political opponents are still in prison in Belarus (available in English).
Read also the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders dedicated to Belarus.