Strasbourg, 21.11.2012 – Andres Herkel (Estonia, EPP/CD), the rapporteur on Belarus of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), has expressed his dismay that the “Viasna” human rights centre in Minsk has been ordered to vacate its office by 27 November, following a year of obscure legal procedures which transferred ownership of the apartment in which the office is located to the state.
“This is yet another blatant disregard of the Parliamentary Assembly’s calls to the authorities of Belarus to stop harassing civil society and human rights defenders,” said Mr Herkel. “Meanwhile, Ales Bialiatski, Viasna’s Chairman and a human rights defender, is still in jail, where he is subject to ill-treatment, despite repeated calls to the authorities to free and rehabilitate all political prisoners in Belarus.”
He continued: “The authorities’ recently-declared intention to renew contacts with the Assembly must necessarily go hand in hand with tangible and verifiable progress in terms of respect for democratic principles and human rights, including respect for human rights defenders and the guarantee of freedom of association.”
PACE’s Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy held a hearing with the participation of Valentin Stefanovich, Viasna’s Vice-President, and other civil society representatives in Strasbourg on 4 October 2012.