Empty chair of Ales Bialiatski in Vilnius

More than 110 activists representing 25 organisations gathered in Vilnius for the Third Belarusian Human Rights Forum that opened on 26 October.

Speaking at the event, Tatsiana Ravyaka of the Human Rights Center Viasna noted that Belarus’ human rights movement was “developing and expanding.” The previous Belarusian Human Rights Forum, held in 2010, brought together representatives of only 17 organizations, she stressed.

The activist noted that Human rights defenders in Belarus had experienced many ordeals since 2010. “These ordeals have not scared us but have demonstrated what big potential human rights defenders have as they have displayed great teamwork in solving problems, an incredible level of solidarity and mutual support,” said Ms. Ravyaka.

Referring to the imprisoned leader of HRC “Viasna” Ales Bialiatski, Tatsiana Ravyaka said that his conviction was a challenge to Belarus’ entire human rights community. According to her, Bialiatski told his collegues that he was with the forum’s participants in his thoughts and asked for one chair in the auditorium to be reserved for him and left vacant.

UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Belarus, Miklós Haraszti, could not attend the Forum, but sent the participants welcoming message, in which he stressed the role of the Belarusian human rights defenders’ work not only in Belarus but also in Europe and in the whole world: “The organizations that labor for human rights, and their members, are the best examples of civic patriotism everywhere. Their work is not simple and not without difficulties anywhere. But this is especially true in the countries, like unfortunately Belarus is at the moment, where their work is made artificially difficult by a system of restrictions, and sometimes made full of sacrifice by repression and cruel and inhumane treatment of the victims of repression.

During the Forum, participants had an opportunity to discuss the problems of the definition and the release of political prisoners, the problem of death penalty, the issues of education in the field of human rights and other important issues in the field of human rights protection relevant at this point. As a result of Forum’s work several resolutions were adopted: on measures for the return of Belarus to implementation of international standards on human rights, on the human rights situation in Belarus and the appeal of the Third Belarusian Human Rights Forum to the Eastern Partnership summit.

The forum had been organized by Human Rights Centre “Viasna”Belarusian Helsinki Committee, the Barys Zvoskau Belarusian Human Rights HouseFIDHLegal Transformation CentreBelarusian Association of Journaliststhe Committee of protection of the repressed “Solidarity”, Belarusian Documentation Centre and Assembly of Democratic NGOs of Belarus. The event was a continuation of the tradition established by previous Belarusian human rights forums held in 2004 and 2010.

Other political prisoners