Members of Vyasna held a meeting in Lithuania on November 24 and 25 to discuss their activities this year and plans for 2013, Valyantsin Stefanovich, deputy chairman of the unregistered Belarusian human rights organization, told BelaPAN on Monday.
"Representatives of all regional offices and the head office of Vyasna participated in the meeting," Mr. Stefanovich said. "We often hold such meetings twice a year because our organization is large."
Despite the difficult situation of Vyasna, the year 2012 has been very successful for it, he said. "Together with our colleagues in the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, we conducted a full-scale election monitoring campaign, 'Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections,'" he said. "By the way, our final report will soon be released. It will also contain our suggestions for improving electoral regulations."
Although it is difficult to make plans for the future under the current circumstances, a decision was made during the weekend meeting in Lithuania to monitor the 2014 local elections and the 2015 presidential election, Mr. Stefanovich said. Vyasna will also continue to provide people with assistance, especially legal assistance, and raise public awareness of human rights issues, he said.
"We will also be active in the international arena," Mr. Stefanovich said. "We plan to prepare an alternative report for the UN Human Rights Committee. In 2014, the Committee will assess Belarus' human rights situation under its Universal Periodic Review mechanism."
However, securing the release of the political prisoners, including Vyasna Chairman Ales Byalyatski, will remain the organization's top priority, Mr. Stefanovich said.