Sasha Kulayeva: Even after the release political prisoners are subject to restrictions

Actions of solidarity with Belarusian civil society took place literally all over the world. The sad fact is that, solidarity with political prisoners could express citizens of many countries, but not citizens of Belarus. FIDH Paris worker, responsible for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Sasha Kulayeva believes that European citizens are well informed about the problems of democratic society in Belarus and human rights situation.

Sasha Kulayeva: Action of solidarity in that year were organized in many countries. In Europe, there were organized a number of initiatives. The International Federation for Human Rights held also an action in social networks. The aim of the action was that everyone could via Twitter, Facebook or other social networks publish a call for the release of Ales Bialiatski. In this action took part more than 245,000 people. The action lasted two weeks. It is unfortunate that it also caused the arrest of human rights defenders in Belarus.

– The Internet community very actively supported the action. But what are the results of the publication of these posts in the virtual space? Will officials in Minsk  learn about this wave of solidarity?

Sasha Kulayeva: Yes, this activity is extremely high and shows that European citizens are well aware of the situation of political prisoners in Belarus. Moreover, such organizations as English PEN-Club, Amnesty International, Freedom House, and hundreds of other individuals and organizations in America, Europe and Asia issued their statements. The statements were issued by the official government organizations from many countries. Street actions were carried out in Zurich, Paris, Prague, Warsaw, Vilnius and other cities. Belarusian society was  supported even in Kirgystan, where the activists organized demonstration outside the embassy of Belarus. As for official information to the Belarusian authorities we have sent them a formal statement. This is of course not the first such statement. In addition, we refer in it to the UN decision declaring the arrest of Ales Bialiatski as illegal, and demand the release of the fighter for human rights. This document was sent once again to the Foreign Ministry of Belarus. Unfortunately, once again we received a reply that the decisions of the United Nations are not recognized as valid by the official Minsk. We realize that it is an outright lie. Because Belarus is a member of the UN, the standards established by this organization are binding for the Minsk officials.

– Therefore, in spite of the world, state authorities are fighting not only with human rights defenders, oppositional politicians, but also with those who sympathize with them. What is the reason, in your opinion?

Sasha Kulayeva: Unfortunately, this is true. At the same time, however, we have the opportunity to present our demands to the Belarusian authorities to immediately stop the persecution. As in Belarus it is impossible to express such demands. Our last action of this type was the demonstration in Brussels, during the visit of Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus. Overall, the situation remains difficult, both in terms of human rights and the situation of political prisoners in prisons. Political prisoners are not only deprived of their freedom, but are subject to torture and other ill-treatment. Prison administrations apply to these special measures pressure, limiting any possibility of normal contact with other prisoners. This leads to an increasing isolation. And such measures are used not only against Ales Bialiatski, but also against other political prisoners. For our part, as much as it is possible, we focus the public’s attention in the West on this situation, we pass the information. It seems to me that a large part of the population of the European Union is aware of these facts.

– Is it possible to say that the purpose of your activity is to counteract the efforts of the Belarusian authorities leading to political human trafficking in relations between Minsk and Brussels?

Sasha Kulayeva: Our position, which we also present at the meetings of the UN Human Rights Council is a protest against the fact of human trafficking. We discuss this in all possible fields available to us. And in the presence of the Belarusian authorities. We strive to ensure that the European position would be uncompromising in this regard. People should not be held hostage by any form of trade, nor political, nor economic. Their release should not be a part of trading process and but a condition to start a dialogue.

– Nevertheless, it has become obvious that the Belarusian authorities do not want to change. Is the West aware of it?

Sasha Kulayeva: In fact, the situation is complicated, as long as the Belarusian side refuses to comply with the obligations it assumed. This obviously narrows the field of possibilities. Hence the lack of any specific decision, otherwise we would have taken it long ago. We believe that only an uncompromising and tough stance of the European Union and the international community, including the UN, PACE, CE will lead to changes. And request of these changes is not limited to the release of political prisoners. We have found that this is not enough, because we remember the scenario of 2008. Then the authorities released some political prisoners, but other were arrested. Therefore, this trade is continued by the authorities. And that is why we demand not only the release of political prisoners as an absolute  condition for the beginning of the dialogue, because without it, the country is not able to function in the political or economic sense. Understanding that we demand a full cessation of all political repression. And the introduction of system changes, assuring that the situation will not happen again. In addition, we emphasize the fact that the country has not only imprisoned for the events of 2010. There are new repressions. Also those already released are under the watchful supervision of the authorities. They may be arrested at any time. Their freedom of movement, and normal functioning is limited. People over which control is exercised after the release is more than forty. And we emphasize that we are talking not only about the 12 political prisoners in the country, but also about those people who remain hostages after their release from prison.

– From year to year the number of such people is increasing. How, according to you, should react the Belarusian society?

Sasha Kulayeva: I’d wish Belarusian society could be more active. Because even the actions of solidarity with Ales Bialiatski meet with government bans, or if anyone tried to go on the street, immediately was subject to persecution. We understand that the level of fear and the corresponding level of repression in the country is very high. Therefore, I think I understand why there is such a low level of activity. In the west, anyone can go into the streets to express solidarity with Ales Bialiatski without risking anything. But if a wave of solidarity was held in the same way as in Europe, it would be quite a solid argument for the release of political prisoners.

 

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Other political prisoners