Belarusian Solidarity Day – no empty gesture


On the sixteenth of each month we remember those politicians and others in Belarus who disappeared without trace. These days, members of the opposition no longer disappear – at least, we know where they’re being held. 

According to the head of the human rights centre “Vyasna” Ales Belyavsky, the monthly protest actions in Belarus in solidarity with political prisoners are producing some positive results. This is in spite of the continuing repressions against opposition figures.

In an interview with Radio Svoboda, Ales Belyavsky explained: “”A system is now in force for carrying out public events which makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to get official permission. Obviously those who take part in these protests are very often subjected to repression. They get arrested, beaten, imprisoned for 24 hours or fined. Nevertheless, this wave of protest, wave of dissent over the policy of the Belarusian authorities is not abating. Each time people come to take part. They clearly put themselves in danger yet that doesn’t stop them.

Have human rights activists over recent years achieved any success in defending political prisoners’ rights or in searching for people who have disappeared during Alexander Lukashenko’s rule?

As regards direct help to those people imprisoned by organizing a system for passing things to them and an information campaign on their behalf - then yes, in that we are certainly successful.  We observe each such trial, take part in them, help however we can. On the other hand we understand clearly that these are trials to order. The judges pass the rulings that the President’s Administration wants. Therefore, as far as the overall situation is concerned, then our options are extremely limited.

For the Belarusian authorities, political expediency is paramount. If it’s convenient to imprison somebody, they do so regardless of any considerations. If it suits them to release somebody, they quickly find a way to do this. During the last two months four people have been released. Yet at the same time, new criminal proceedings have been initiated involving 17 people. It’s a kind of trade in political prisoners with the European Union.

As for the politicians who disappeared during the wave in 1999-2000, which is thank God not continuing, the traces lead specifically to the corridors of power. This is demonstrated by investigations both by Belarusian human rights groups, and international structures, because the Council of Europe is also actively involved in this issue. We understand clearly that under this regime, no objective investigation into these things will take place.”

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