International Day of Solidarity with Civil Society of Belarus 2013
Thousands of people around the world joined the International Day of Solidarity with Civil Society of Belarus. Human rights defenders, civil activists, politicians, artists and ordinary citizens from 15 countries of the world took part in actions of solidarity on 4 August.
4 August marked the second anniversary of the arrest of a well-known Belarusian human rights defender Ales Bialiatski, the head of Human Rights Centre Viasna and the Vice President of the International Federation for Human Rights. He was arrested 4 August 2011 and later sentenced to 4.5 years of prison he is currently serving in a colony near the city of Babruisk.
In 2012 this day was marked by mass actions globally in support Ales, other political prisoners in Belarus as well as civil society activists of the country; thus, it was decided to announce 4 August as the International Day of Solidarity.
This year actions within the framework of the Day 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 was widely covered by the media and 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.
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.
Different cities of the world became venues of discussions on Belarus, dedicated to the issues of the situation of 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 of different events had an opportunity to write a postcard or a letter of support to him.
In several European capitals, like Vilnius, Warsaw, Prague, Berlin, mass street actions took place. 5 August in Vilnius participants of such an action delivered an appeal to the Belarusian embassy calling for an immediate release of Ales Bialiatski and other political prisoners as well as for ceasing of repressions against Belarusian activists.
Moscow hosted an exhibition of Belarusian photographers dedicated to various aspects of activates of civil society and a presentation of Valery Kalinouski’s book “Bialiatski’s Case”. A round table discussion “Will Russia become a new Belarus?” about parallels in developments of the situation in the two countries also took place.
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. It became just another sign 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 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 online: