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Appeal on ill-treatment of Ales Belyatsky in a penal colony

The HFHR has appealed to Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament and to the European External Action Service on the conditions of detention and treatment of Ales Belyatsky, a Belarusian human rights defender, who is currently serving his time in a penal colony.

Mr Belyatsky was sentenced to four and half years in a high-security colony and property forfeiture for alleged tax evasion.  The charges were based on the information on Mr Belyatsky’s bank accounts passed on by Polish and Lithuanian authorities. The accounts were used to transfer the funding financing the activities of Vesna, the human rights organisation headed by Mr Belyatsky.

Letters sent by the detained activist to his co-worker Valiantin Stefanovich suggest that he is being persecuted by the authorities of the penal colony. During the last six months Mr Belyatsky was given three reprimands. First, in January 2012, right after his admission, he was reprimanded for wearing a wrong type of shoes, contrary to the regulations. The second one was issued in May 2012 for being in the workplace without a proper badge. The third reprimand received in early June 2012, concerned the fact he was allegedly found sleeping in his workplace.

Further, Mr Belyatsky informs in these letters that food parcels he is allowed to receive were reduced from 30 kilograms to 15 kilograms as a punishment. In addition prison authorities cancelled permission allowing him to receive extra 5 kilograms of fruit and vegetables. They also limited his right to long-term visits. Instead of three visits in a year to which inmates are statutorily entitled, Mr Belyatsky was granted only one. In addition, the amount of money that he may receive was lowered from 500,000 Belarusian Roubles (ca. PLN 200) to 100,000 Belarusian roubles (ca. PLN 40) a month.

It is evident from the conduct of the colony’s administration that they want to assign to Mr Belyatsky a status of “malicious offender violating the colony’s regime” to deprive him of the opportunity to be released under the amnesty law. The Belarusian Parliament is working currently on such a law. However, the proposed regulations indicate that political prisoners will be excluded from the amnesty. The draft law on amnesty lists articles of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus which may be used as a basis of refusal. These include “group actions violating public order” or “defamation of the President”. Other inmates who do not fall under the amnesty are those who are labelled violators of penal regulations or who did not admit their guilt and refused to commence rehabilitation. If this draft law is adopted, Ales Belyatsky will be probably deprived of any possibility to benefit from amnesty or early release measures.

In the HFHR’s opinion, such actions should be interpreted explicitly as a political repercussion for Mr Belyatsky’s long-standing advocacy of human rights and democracy.  The Foundation requested the European Parliament to adopt a resolution condemning the actions of Belarusian authorities. This resolution could be adopted at the Parliament’s next plenary session scheduled for early July 2012.  The European External Action Service, on its part, was asked to initiate diplomatic actions aimed at improving the treatment of political prisoners in Belarus, and in particular Ales Belyatsky.

In April 2012, Mr Belyatsky was officially nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

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