The U.N. human rights office has called on the government of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to drop criminal charges against Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Ales Bialiatski and to immediately free him from detention.
Belarusian Laureate Ales Bialiatski went on trial Thursday in the capital, Minsk, on charges that human rights activists widely view as bogus. If found guilty, he faces up to 12 years in jail.
Two other representatives of his organization, the Viasna Human Rights Center, also are on trial and could face lengthy prison sentences. U.N. human rights spokesman Jeremy Laurence says his office has serious concerns about the conduct of their trial.
“The trio are among hundreds detained after a violent crackdown on anti-government protests back in 2020,” said Laurence. “We call for the charges against them to be dropped and their immediate release from detention.”
Bialiatski jointly won the 2022 Nobel peace prize along with Russian human rights organization Memorial and the Ukrainian human rights organization Center for Civil Liberties. Bialiatski did not attend the award ceremony in October because he was in prison.
Laurence says Bialiatski and his colleagues are being held on charges of financing protests against the government and of violating public order.
“I am not a lawyer, so I cannot go into the technical detail of the laws itself under which they have been charged,” said Laurence. “Suffice to say that we consider these to be arbitrary arrests, constitute arbitrary detention. And that the charges are simply politically motivated.”
Laurence notes the human rights office, and the special procedures unit are closely following the case. He says concerns about widespread, gross violations in Belarus have been raised at the Human Rights Council and the U.N. General Assembly.