Viasna Launches Campaign to Support Political Prisoners in Belarus
Viasna calls on people to express solidarity with all political prisoners on May 21.
By Rakesh Raman
The Viasna human rights center has designated May 21 as a Day of Solidarity with Political Prisoners in Belarus. On this day two years ago, political prisoner Vitold Ashurak died in the Škloŭ penal colony No. 17.
According to Viasna, no criminal proceedings have been initiated following his death, while the situation with political prisoners has significantly deteriorated.
As human rights abuses are increasing continuously in Belarus, Viasna reports that by the end of 2022, there were 1,446 political prisoners in Belarus while 889 people were recognized as political prisoners.
Last year, the Day of Political Prisoners theme was the yellow tag used in colonies to mark inmates. It was Ashurak who first talked about it in his letter.
This year, according to Viasna, human rights defenders propose to make the theme of the Day of Solidarity with political prisoners in Belarus letters and the right to correspondence, which the Belarusian authorities have deprived hundreds of political prisoners.
Viasna calls on people to express solidarity with all political prisoners on May 21, draw the attention of the Belarusian and international community to their problems, and once again demand the release of all political prisoners from the authorities.
In March, a court in Belarus ordered the imprisonment of Nobel Peace Prize winner and rights activist Ales Bialiatski for 10 years. It is alleged that Bialiatski, 60, financed protests and other crimes – the allegations which are believed to be frivolous and politically motivated. Bialiatski and three co-defendants were charged with supporting protests and smuggling money.
Hundreds of Belarusians have been arrested and jailed because they peacefully exercised their rights to freedom of expression and assembly in response to a fraudulent election in August 2020 that allowed President Alexander Lukashenko to retain power.
When the intensity of protests increased, Lukashenko’s regime shut down dozens of independent organizations and media outlets. Bialiatski is a co-founder of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” which is a non-governmental organization formed in 1996 during mass protest actions of the democratic opposition in Belarus.
Although the UN human rights agencies and world leaders have failed completely to protect the peaceful protesters in Belarus, they keep releasing perfunctory bureaucratic statements which have no effect on autocratic President Lukashenko.
In February, for example, the Council of Europe (COE) Secretary General, Marija Pejčinović Burić, announced a 15-point action plan to support civil society and democracy representatives working towards a future free and democratic Belarus. However, this plan would be as ineffective as the other casual steps taken in the past.
You can also write a letter to a political prisoner and post it on social media with hashtags #FreeThemAll #WeStandByYou. The letter can be sent to the prisoner online through the Solidarity Postcards Atelier.
By Rakesh Raman, who is a national award-winning journalist and social activist. He is the founder of the humanitarian organization RMN Foundation which is working in diverse areas to help the disadvantaged and distressed people in the society.
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