Updated at 13:48,15-08-2017

OSCE/ODIHR director condemns criminal case against Byalyatski as violation of Belarus` OSCE commitments

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The criminal prosecution of Ales Byalyatski constitutes a violation of Belarus` OSCE commitments, Janez Lenarcic, director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, says in a press release issued on the occasion of the second anniversary of the conviction of the Belarusian human rights defender.

Mr. Lenarcic reminds the Belarusian government of previous calls by the OSCE chairpersons-in-office to release Mr. Byalyatski and expresses concern over the general situation of human rights defenders in Belarus.

"The offence for which Bialiatski [Byalyatski] was found guilty was the direct result of the authorities’ refusal to allow his organization to work to promote and protect human rights in Belarus," Mr. Lenarcic says. "Belarus has committed itself to enhance, rather than obstruct, the ability of NGOs to promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. But Bialiatski’s conviction is the result of just such obstruction."

Ales Byalyatski, chairman of a human rights organization called Vyasna (Spring) who is vice president of the International Federation for Human Rights, was arrested in Minsk on August 4, 2011.

On November 24, 2011, he was sentenced to four and a half years in prison on a charge of large-scale tax evasion. The charge stemmed from information about his bank accounts abroad, which was thoughtlessly provided by authorities in Lithuania and Poland under interstate legal assistance agreements. During his trial, Mr. Byalyatski insisted that the money transferred by various foundations to his bank accounts abroad had been intended to finance Vyasna’s activities and therefore could not be viewed as his income subject to taxation.