Ales Bialiatski receives highly symbolic Václav Havel Human Rights Prize

Paris-Minsk, 30 septembre 2013 – As the Council of Europe just announced the 2013 laureate of the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize, FIDH and Human Rights Centre “Viasna” express their utmost support to its recipient Ales Bialiatski, President of HRC “Viasna” and Vice President of FIDH. Prominent human rights defender in Belarus, Ales Bialiatski was sentenced to 4 and a half years of detention in severe regime in August 2011 for his human rights activities.

« This prize is particularly symbolic for Ales », explained Valiantsin Stefanovic, vice-president of Viasna. « Vaclav Havel and Bialiatski met, and a few days before he died, Václav Havel wrote a letter to Ales in prison. In it, he expressed his support to Ales and the hope that Belarus would one day be a democratic state ».

Ales, who celebrated his 51st birthday behind bars on 25 September, has dedicated the past twenty years to the defence of human rights not only in Belarus but also abroad. The 38th FIDH Congress which was held in May 2013 in Istanbul demonstrated its support and its faith in Ales and re-elected him Vice President of FIDH.

Together with his organisation in Belarus, Human Rights Centre “Viasna” which he founded in 1996, Ales has been bringing support to political prisoners and their families. The organisation’s activities have been clearly targeted by the regime of Alexander Lukachenko which accused Ales of fiscal evasion because of the foreign funds the organisation was receiving to operate and ordered to confiscate the offices of the organisation.

« The regime has no shame about targeting Viasna, its members and other human rights organisations in Belarus for their legitimate and necessary activities; and doesn’t hesitate to prosecute them as common law criminals » stated Karim Lahidji, FIDH President. « I hope this prize will remind the international community and particularly European States that there are still regimes nearby who repress their own population in complete impunity », he added.

FIDH also congratulates the other short-listed nominees for this prize, including the 2 other finalists, the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (Georgia) and the Rights Defence Network (China).

The Václav Havel Human Rights Prize is awarded each year by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in partnership with the Václav Havel Library and the Charta 77 Foundation to reward outstanding civil society action in the defence of human rights in Europe and beyond.

See also Vaclav Havel’s last letter to Ales Bialiatski