Ales Bialiatski, Chairman, “Viasna” Human Rights Centre

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Ales Bialiatski, Chairman, “Viasna” Human Rights Centre

Today Ales Bialiatski is undoubtedly one of the most well-known representatives of Belarusian civil society among the international community. His social activity started in his student days, when, as a languages and literature student, he was heavily involved in promoting the Belarusian language and literature. Then, after participating in the national youth movement, Bialiatski was actively engaged in literary activities: he was the head of a museum about Maksim Bahdanovich, a Belarusian literary classic and prepared the works of other national writers, who were previously taboo, for publication.

Bialiatski became a well-known public figure after thepolitical springin 1996, when he set up a human rights centre calledViasna” (Spring) that was committed to providing support to democracy advocates who were prosecuted by the government. “Viasnaand the Belarusian Helsinki Committee became the centre of the human rights movement in the authoritarian Belarusian state.

After the cruel suppression of the peaceful protest against the vote fraud on December 19, 2010, “Viasnastarted activities to support victims of political repression. The relatives of the political prisoners under arrest used to visit the office ofViasna”. The team collected packages, worked with lawyers, and garnered international support.

The government’s appreciation of Ales Bialiatski’s activities in this respect turned out to be very high: in an ironic twist, the defender of the political prisoners has now himself become a political prisoner. On August 4th, 2011, Bialiatski was arrested on tax evasion charges on the funds that were transferred to his operating accounts in Lithuania and Poland to support victims of repression. On October 24th 2011, he was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison. The deputies of several European countries and international human rights organizations proposed his candidature for the 2012 Noble Peace Prize.

Interviews with Bialiatski: Korespondent Wschodni,, letters from prison

Author: Handbook on Belarus for International journalists