Federal Government Human Rights Commissioner Markus Löning issued this statement today (1 October 2013) following the award of the first-ever Václav Havel Human Rights Prize by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to Ales Bialiatski:
I sincerely congratulate Ales Bialiatski on receiving the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize. This award recognises his extraordinary dedication to human rights in Belarus.
Ales Bialiatski has been unjustly imprisoned for more than two years. He was convicted because of his work for human rights. Ales Bialiatski should be released immediately, as should all other political prisoners in Belarus. I call on the Belarusian Government to end all harassment of civil society, opposition activists and independent media.
The well-known human rights defender Ales Bialiatski is Vice President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and President of Viasna, the leading human rights organisation in Minsk. Viasna was founded in 1996 and officially registered in 1999. Its government registration was withdrawn in 2003. During the renewed wave of repression following the presidential elections in December 2010, Viasna has made a name for itself by supporting political prisoners and their families. Ales Bialiatski was sentenced to four and a half years imprisonment in November 2011 and his property confiscated because his foreign bank accounts contained funds from international donors to support Viasna’s human rights activities. Non-governmental organisations in Belarus face severe restrictions which are designed to make it very hard for civil society representatives critical of the regime to do their work.
The Václav Havel Human Rights Prize is awarded by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in partnership with the Václav Havel Library and the Charta 77 Foundation to reward outstanding civil society action in the defence of human rights. The Prize is awarded in memory of Václav Havel, the Czech playwright, essayist, human rights activist and politician. It is worth 60,000 euros.