The Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid, Christoph Strässer, issued the following statement today (23 June 2014) in connection with the release of human rights activist Ales Bialiatski from prison on 21 June 2014:
I welcome the release of Ales Bialiatski. I am very relieved that after almost three years of unjustified imprisonment he is now back in the care of his family and friends.
The release of Ales Bialiatski is a positive development. The Belarusian authorities are called upon to rapidly take further steps to put an end to the repression of civil society, the opposition and independent media. I specifically urge the Belarusian Government to immediately release all remaining political prisoners.
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. Particularly during the repression following the presidential elections in December 2010, Viasna provided support for 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.
Ales Bialiatski was released on 21 June as part of an amnesty to mark Belarus’ Independence Day on 3 July. In October 2013 he was awarded the first‑ever Václav Havel Human Rights Prize by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe for his courageous commitment to promoting human rights in Belarus.