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Demonstrations and arrests:
This last weekend, 25. – 26. March, peaceful protest actions took place across Russia, Belarus and in Kyrgyzstan, which were met with heavy police forces, mass arrests and violence from the authorities. Although they did not seem to have been coordinated in any way, the protests have in common that they were supported by citizens fed up with corruption and oppression. Governments of the three countries seem to know only one way of reacting: Interdiction, violence and detentions. Still, citizens for the first time in a very long time, defied fears and participated. The participation across Russia, not limited to big cities, had not been seen for years.
We strongly condemn the continuing wave of detentions and harassment of peaceful protesters, journalists, human rights defenders,
civil society activists, anarchists and opposition party members in Belarus. More than 250 people have been detained since
3 March, and several detentions have been carried out with excessive use of force. On the eve of planned demonstrations in
Minsk and several other places in Belarus on 25 March, we urge President Lukashenka to abide human rights principles.
Photo by Andrey Liankevich.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee has monitored and reported on the situation in Belarus since 1994. From 2000 the Committee has intensified its involvement in the country and established cooperation with a number of independent organizations and media. Belarus is called "Europe's last dictatorship" and the government has come down hard on human rights organizations, media and opposition parties. All elections after President Alexander Lukashenko came to power in 1994 have been manipulated. The regime has come down on protesters who have demanded democracy and imprisoned countless activists. Human rights organizations have documented systematic violations of the rule of law, freedom of speech, freedom of organizations, in addition to unsolved "disappearances".
The citizen observers initiative Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections (Human Rights Center "Viasna" and Belarusian Helsinki Committee) criticize the lack of equal access to state media for all candidates, lack of impartiality of election commissions, facts of abuse of administrative resources in favor of the pro-government candidates, numerous facts of forcing voters to participate in early voting, non-transparency of some election day procedures.
6th World Congress Against Death Penalty:
In the framework of the program of the 6th World Congress Against the Death Penalty, the Human Rights Center Viasna, (Belarus), FIDH and Norwegian Helsinki Committee organizes a side event on the death penalty in Belarus.
Yesterday’s presidential election in Belarus gave no surprises in the reelection of Alexander Lukashenko to his fifth term as the country’s authoritarian president. With no real competition, control over administrative resources and massive coercion and pressure to participate in early voting, the election process gave the incumbent leader a simple walk-over.
Belarus and Moldova:
In two joint letters to the governments of Belarus and Moldova, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee and the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia urge them to uphold their international obligations and secure two peaceful Tajik opposition activists from extradition to Tajikistan and possible torture and other ill-treatment. Moldova and Belarus are bound by international refugee law as well as the UN Convention against Torture. They cannot lawfully return Mr. Sobir Valiev and Ms. Shabnam Khudoydodova to Tajikistan where torture remains widespread.
Belarus - updated 20 October 2013:
We encourage you strongly to write letters to the prisoners! We have met with released prisoners and the families of those in prison, and they all say the same: Letters are both a great comfort and a protection as they make the authorities aware that the prisoners are not forgotten. Please write to the addresses indicated in the description of each of the prisoners. We also encourage you to contact us if you want to engage with support actions for one particular prisoner.
HRHW film festival:
- Western democracies should impose targeted sanctions against the Azerbaijani elite. Statements of concerns from European leaders are only benefitting the Aliyev regime said Vugar Gojayev, human rights defender in exile and NHC project coordinator in the discussion after the screening of Amazing Azerbaijan at the Human Rights Human Wrongs film festival on Saturday.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee congratulates the Belarussian human rights defender Ales Bialiatski with the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize. - Ales Bialiatski has devoted his life to the fight for human rights, democracy and freedom for all citizens of Belarus. As our good friend and collegaue we have seen how his work has made a tremendous impact on so many people lives. I can hardly imagine a more well-deserved prize, says Secretary General Bjørn Engesland.
With today's opening of the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Stockholm and Helsinki, the Don’t Play with the Dictator! campaign has written a letter to the President of the International Ice Hockey Federation René Fasel, where we urge him and the representatives of the national IIHF member organisations to support the victims of human rights violations by removing the 2014 IIHF World Championship from Belarus at the next meeting of the IIHF General Congress in Stockholm in May 2013. The NHC is a member of the Don't Play with the Dictator! campaign. Read the letter below.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee presents a series of short documentaries about present and former political prisoners in Belarus, made by local filmmakers. The intention of the documentaries is to present the persons behind the names of the prisoners to a local as well as an international audience. We believe this is important to understand why we must continue to struggle for their release.
Yesterday, August 4, Ales Bialiatski, the head of Human Rights Centre (HRC) Viasna and the Vice- President of International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) was arbitrary detained in Minsk. The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is deeply concerned with Ales Bialiatski's detention, and Secretary General Bjørn Engesland says "We will demand the immediate release of our colleague and good partner Ales Bialiatski by using all appropriate means we have."
International Human Rights Day:
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee dedicates this year’s International Human Rights Day to political prisoners in Belarus, and urges the European Union to join us in demanding their release.
On 19 December 2010, two years ago today, thousands of peaceful citizens gathered in central Minsk, protesting the oppression and the stolen presidential elections. The protests were organised on the day of the last presidential elections officially won by Alexander Lukashenko. Lukashenko has been in power since 1994.
The office of our partner in Belarus, prominent NGO 'Viasna', led by the imprisoned human rights defender Ales Bialiatski, was confiscated on 26 November. The move was the last fulfilment of the illegal conviction of Bialiatski just over one year ago. NHC has protested this last blow against Viasna through the network Civil Society Platform.
Write Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenka and ask for an end to the harassment of journalist Iryna Khalip.
Imprisoned Belarusian human rights defender Ales Bialiatski turned 49 yesterday. Ales was forced to celebrate his birthday behind bars, despite calls from UN, from EU and all over the world for his release.
A dedicated human rights defender and our good friend Boris Zvoskov, head of the Legal Initiative human rights association, has died, after a prolonged disease. The Norwegian Helsinki Committee has known and cooperated closely with Boris for over ten years. We extend our deepest condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.
The campaign "Don't play with the dictator" has expressed disappointment with the decision by the International Ice-hockey Federation IIHF confirming at its general assembly in Helsinki that the Republic of Belarus will host the 2014 IIHF World Championship.
As a Norwegian partner, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee is pleased with the implementation of the Oslo Freedom Forum 2012, which took place 7 - 9 May. The 2012 Forum has been the best so far, and the NHC is proud to be associated with both the conference and with its participants.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is among international NGOs who today started a joint campaign for the removal of Ice Hockey World Championship from Belarus.
European Development Bank:
European Bank for Reconstruction and Development must maintain demands that Turkmenistan and Belarus meet set benchmarks before any investment in the restrictive countries. The Norwegian Helsinki Committee today participated in a meeting at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in London, discussing the Bank’s calibrated approach towards Belarus and Turkmenistan. The two authoritarian countries are the only cases in which the EBRD has initiated such an approach that allows for closer monitoring of the progress or regress towards set benchmarks on political and economic reform, and more rapid response to the development.
Conference in Oslo 22 March:
Norwegian PEN, Human Rights House Foundation and Norwegian Helsinki Committee invite you to the conference "Action on Belarus!" in Litteraturhuset in Oslo on 22 March. We are proud to present prominent speakers from Belarus, Norway and European institutions, including the Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjørn Jagland and State Secretary of Foreign Affairs Torgeir Larsen. The questions we aim to answer are: Is the pursued policy efficient? Is Norway’s policy towards Belarus clear enough? How can we offer more support to freedom-longing Belarusians? And is the Belarusian people ready for a change?
(18/03-2010) On the Day of Solidarity in Belarus, March 16th, searches were carried out in the offices of the web-site charter97.org and in the office of the independent newspaper Narodnaya Volya.
(19/04-2010) In a letter sent to the President of the Republic of Belarus, Mr Alexander Lukashenko, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, together with 50 other organisations, condemns the execution of Mr. Andrei Zhuk and Mr. Vasily Yuzepchuk.
(15/09-2010) In a statement published today, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee expresses concerns regarding the severe threats against Natalia Radzina, Svetlana Kalinkina and Nicolai Khalezin.
(01/10-2010) The Norwegian Helsinki Committee will be very active during the Warsaw Human Dimension Session of the 2010 OSCE Review conference the first week of October.
On January 24, the cassation appeal against the verdict of the Pershamaiski District Court of Minsk, of Ales Bialiatski, Head of the Human Rights Centre “Viasna” in Belarus, Vice-president of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and one of the founders of the Belarusian Human Rights House in exile, left the sentence against Ales Bialiatski in force: 4.5 years imprisonment in a higher security colony and confiscation of properties. The latter disregards the fact that all the taxes and penalties imposed on Ales Bialiatski have been fully paid by the time of the appeal hearing. The same day, "Viasna" had to vacates their offices through almost twelve years.
On 19 December last year we witnessed thousands of peaceful citizens gathering in central Minsk, protesting the oppression and the stolen presidential elections. That night all hope of progress was shattered as we saw police forces batter the protesters and arresting them by the hundreds. Presidential candidates, opposition leaders, civil society leaders and unorganized citizens were all herded into vans and brought to prison. Thousands fled, running away from soldiers and police beating indiscriminately. Belarusian citizens keep running still a year later.
Ales Bialiatski, the head of the well-known human rights organization Viasna in Belarus this morning sentenced to four and a half years in prison and confiscation of property for tax evasion. - This verdict is a shame for Europe, and we must all stand together in our condemnation of the regime in Belarus, said NHC Secretary General Bjørn Engesland. - European leaders, including the Norwegian government, must demand the immediate release of Bialiatski.
Representatives from human rights organisations, including Civil Rights Defenders, Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Human Rights House Foundation, Front Line Defenders and International Partnership for Human Rights, have been denied visa for travel to Belarus and cannot attend the trial of Ales Bialiatski, leader of the human rights organisation Viasna. This clearly shows that the trial is politically motivated.
Norwegian Helsinki Committee is among nine international human rights NGOs signing a protest letter addressed to Belarusian authorities today protesting further tightening the conditions for civil society activity in Belarus. We believe that the new amendments constitute a grave threat to civil society in Belarus.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is actively and well represented at this years' OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw. In our interventions at the meeting we will focus on freedom of religion in Central Asia, rule of law in Azerbaijan, Belarus and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and freedom of expression in Macedonia, Bosnia and Serbia. We are organising a side-event on lack of justice after major human rights violations in Russia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Additionally we organise a side-event on strikers' rights in Kazakhstan and we are also co-organising a side-event with particular focus on Ales Bialiatski and the release of political prisoners in Belarus. Below you will find links to the HDIM webpage, all documents from our side-events and interventions and other relevant links.
The European Parliament adopted on 14 September a resolution on the arrest of the Belarusian human rights defender Ales Bialiatski. The Parliament demand the immediate and unconditional release of Bialiatski as well as all other political prisoners in Belarus.
Release political prisoners in Belarus!:
The first week of September, Norwegian Helsinki Committee in cooperation with the International Partnership for Human Rights, Brussels, addressed the members of the European Parliament about the the human rights crisis in Belarus. We did this in view of a September 13 discussion of an urgent resolution concerning the arrest and imprisonment of the prominent Belarusian human rights defender Ales Bialiatski. In addition, NHC has together with several international human rights organisations written a letter to the national delegations participating in the Interactive Dialogue with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Belarus.
Azerbaijan, Belarus and Russia:
Last week, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee hosted a delegation of Azeri, Belarusian, Russian and international human rights defenders. They took part in seminars arranged by the NHC at the Norwegian parliament Stortinget and the Fritt Ord Foundation. In their recomendations to the Committee of Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the PACE and Stortinget, they called for a sharpening of human rights policies towards Azerbaijan, Belarus and Russia.
How can we combine the agenda of bilateral business relations with the active promotion and defense of human rights?
(06/12-2010) -On the surface we have been seeing a different kind of Lukashenko the last few months, with less tension, repressions and sense of intimidation, both Tatiana Reviaka and Pavel Sheremet noted during the seminar at the House of Literature.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee strongly condemns the sentencing of a string of important democracy fighters in Belarus the last few weeks.
Statement from the NHC annual meeting 2011:
At these exceptional times – when authoritarian regimes are falling or are under serious pressure by democratic forces in the Middle East and North Africa – we witness that Europe’s last authoritarian states are successful in retaining control and undermining democratic developments.
During a meeting with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, in Oslo on May 5 NHC raised the need for the Human Rights Commissioner to engage actively in the crisis in Belarus. The Human Rights Center Viasna's office was raided while presenting a report on 19 December and following events just hours before the meeting with Pillay.