Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Bialiatski Sentenced to 10 Years in Belarus Prison
Ales Bialiatski, the Belarusian human rights advocate and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was sentenced to 10 years in a maximum-security penal colony by a Minsk court on Friday. This sentencing, which came as part of a brutal crackdown on opponents of the country's authoritarian government, was widely condemned by Western human rights groups and other nations.
Bialiatski, the 60-year-old founder and chairman of the Viasna Human Rights Center, has been a vocal advocate for democracy and human rights in Belarus since the 1980s. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in October 2022, alongside the Russian human rights organisation Memorial and the Ukrainian human rights organisation, the Center for Civil Liberties.
The charges against Bialiatski were for smuggling money into Belarus to fund his group’s activities and for financing protests against the continued rule of strongman Alexander Lukashenko following disputed national elections in 2020. Bialiatski has denied these charges and his arrest was seen as part of a wider crackdown on anti-government protesters.
Two other members of the Bialiatski-led Viasna Human Rights center, Valiantsin Stefanovich and Uladzimir Labkovich, were also sentenced to nine and seven years each respectively, according to state-owned news agency Belta.
The German Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock, described the charges as a “farce”, saying the trio were being punished “simply for their years-long fight for the rights, dignity and freedom of the people of Belarus”. Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya also slammed the sentencing of Bialiatski and other activists in the same trial as “appalling”.
Bialiatski is the fourth person to win the Nobel Peace Prize while in prison, after Carl von Ossietzky of Germany in 1935, Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar in 1991, and Liu Xiaobo of China in 2010.
Rights groups say there are around 1,500 political prisoners in Belarus, with many having been arrested since the suppression of the 2020 protests. Viasna has said that the allegations against Bialiatski and his colleagues are “linked to their human rights activity, the Viasna human rights centre’s provision of help to the victims of politically motivated persecution”.
0. “Belarusian Nobel Peace Prize winner sentenced to 10 years in jail” POLITICO Europe, 3 Mar. 2023, https://www.politico.eu/article/belarus-nobel-peace-prize-winner-ales-bialiatski-sentence-10-year-jail
1. “Belarus court sentences Nobel Peace Prize winner to 10 years in prison” The Jerusalem Post, 3 Mar. 2023, https://www.jpost.com/international/article-733288
2. “Belarusian Nobel Laureate Ales Bialiatski Gets 10 Years in Prison” Bloomberg, 3 Mar. 2023, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2023-03-03/belarusian-nobel-laureate-ales-bialiatski-gets-10-years-in-prison
3. “Belarusian human rights activist and Nobel Prize winner Ales Bialiatski sentenced to 10 years in prison” Meduza, 3 Mar. 2023, https://meduza.io/en/news/2023/03/03/belarusian-human-rights-activist-and-nobel-prize-winner-ales-bialiatski-sentenced-to-10-years-in-prison
4. “Nobel laureate Ales Bialiatski sentenced to 10 years in prison by Belarusian court” CNN, 3 Mar. 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/03/03/europe/ales-bialiatski-sentenced-intl/index.html