2014 Ales Bialiatski

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Photo: Civil Rights Defenders/Frida Nilson

“Ales Bialiatski, who has dedicated his life to the non-violent fight for human rights in Belarus and the world, is the very symbol of the Belarusian civil society and hope for a better future. Despite warnings and threats from the authorities, being fully aware of the risks he was facing as a result of his work - Ales Bialiatski continued his work as human rights defender. When it became evident that it was only a matter of time until he would be arrested, he chose to stay in solidarity with his colleagues and the citizens of Belarus, thereby sacrificing his own freedom for a greater cause.” 

For over 30 years, Ales Bialiatski, has pursued a path of continuous struggle to campaign for democracy and human rights, first in the Soviet Union and then in Belarus.

In 1996 Ales Bialiatski founded the Human Rights Centre Viasna protecting the rights of civic and political activists in Belarus. The organisation is in the very forefront of human rights protection in Belarus and has throughout the years provided legal assistance to thousands of persons, disseminated information on the human rights situation in Belarus. Since the establishment of Viasna, Ales has been arrested over 20 times. Many of these arrests have been for such minor infringements as handing out copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

I 2011 Ales was arrested and accused of tax evasion. Prior to his arrest Ales had been raising funds to help repressed human rights defenders and their families in Belarus. On 24 November he was found guilty on trumped up charges and sentenced to 4,5 years in prison, in a trial with clear political overtones. During his prison sentence Ales was prevented from communicating freely with the outside world. After 1052 days behind bars he was released on 21 June, 2014.

On April 4, 2014 Ales Bialiatski received the Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award in absentia and his wife and colleagues accepted the prize in his honur in Stockholm.