‘Stop harassment and intimidation towards civil society’ says PACE rapporteur on Belarus

Strasbourg, 08.08.2011 - Following last week's arrest of Ales Bialiatski, head of the NGO Viasna and Vice-President of the International Human Rights Federation, on charges of “tax evasion”, Andres Herkel (Estonia, EPP/CD), the rapporteur on Belarus for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), has urged the authorities in Belarus to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of Mr Bialiatski and to put an end to all forms of harassment against him and other human rights defenders in the country.

"Since 1996, Viasna has provided legal assistance to thousands of Belarusians who were fined, arrested or imprisoned for criticising Alexander Lukashenko's authoritarian policies. Viasna has also been active in reporting on the police crackdown on a recent series of peaceful rallies following the presidential elections. Since April 2011, Mr Bialiatski has been the subject of a smear campaign, in which he is presented as public enemy number one in Belarus,” Mr Herkel recalled. "Mr Bialiatski’s arrest is yet another instance in a pattern of harassment and intimidation towards civil society. It is high time political abuse of the criminal law in Belarus comes to an end.”