International Solidarity Day Receives Support from European Parliament

April 22, 2016 18:35

Thousands of people around the world joined the International Day of Solidarity with Belarusian civil society. Human rights defenders, civil activists, politicians, artists and other citizens from 15 countries took part in actions of solidarity on August 4th.

August 4th was the second anniversary of the arrest of a well-known Belarusian human rights defender, Ales Bialiatski, head of Human Rights Centre Viasna and Vice President of the International Federation for Human Rights. Mr. Bialiatski was arrested on August 4th 2011 and later sentenced to 4.5 years of prison which he is serving near the city of Babruisk.

This year, actions were held in several cities of Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Germany, as well as in Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Czech Republic, United Kingdom, Italy, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Armenia and USA.

The International Day of Solidarity also received political support as 15 members of the European Parliament from different countries made a special statement calling on the authorities of Belarus to free Ales Bialiatski and to respect the country’s international commitments to defend human rights. Miklos Haraszti, a UN special rapporteur on the situation with human rights in Belarus, made a statement as well.

Actions drew attention to the situation of Belarus’ human rights defenders, death penalty, and development of civil society. Special attention was paid to Ales Bialiatski’s case; his photos were featured during most of the actions, signatures were collected under appeals for his release, participants had the opportunity to write a postcard or a letter of support to him.

In several European capitals, such as Vilnius, Warsaw, Prague, or Berlin, mass street actions took place.

In Warsaw, Solidarity with Belarus Information Office, alongside several Warsaw-based NGOs, co-organized a range of events: a picket in the city centre, discussions on the situation of political prisoners, and development of society, and a jazz concert.

In Vilnius, on August 5th, activists delivered an appeal to the Belarusian embassy calling for an immediate release of Ales Bialiatski and other political prisoners and to stop repressions against Belarusian activists.

Moscow hosted a presentation of Valery Kalinouski’s book “Bialiatski’s Case” and an exhibition of Belarusian photographers about various aspects of civil society activities. A round table discussion “Will Russia become the new Belarus?” about parallels in developments of the situation in the two countries was also held.

In Kiev, the whole park became “A Space of Free Belarus” where lectures, discussions and photo exhibitions took place. Unknown provocateurs attempted to attack the exhibition, but they failed to wreck the action.

We will observe this day every year, until the situation of civil society in Belarus changes: until its authorities put an end to imprisoning people for human rights activities, until there is a guarantee of fundamental human rights: freedom of expression, assembly and association,” the Solidarity Day Manifesto goes.

Unfortunately, on Monday, 5 August, Ales Bialiatski’s colleagues Tatsiana Raviaka and Uladzimir Labkovich were detained in Minsk while they were distributing leaflets in support of Ales. This was just another sign that the situation in Belarus is not going to change soon and broad public support and attention to the human rights situation in Belarus is still much needed.

The International Day of Solidarity with civil society of Belarus was first announced in 2012 by the Committee of International Control over the situation with human rights in Belarus; Centre for Civil Liberties (Ukraine); Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Poland), Moscow Helsinki group (Russia); International Youth Human Rights Movement. In 2013 they were joined by Index on Censorship (United Kingdom) and Belarusian Human Rights House in exile (Lithuania).

The Solidarity Day was supported by most leading international human rights organisations. Dedicated materials and statements were published by Human Rights House Network, Freedom House, Civicus. International Federation for Human Rights became a partner of the Solidarity Day; it also announced a huge international campaign to support Ales. Amnesty International supported the activities of the Day in Russia and Ukraine.

International Solidarity Day online:

www.by.soli-day.org/en

www.facebook.com/bysoliday

twitter @soli_days

e-mail: by-soliday@hrgroups.org