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Statements Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Comment by UN Human Rights spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani on sentencing of human rights defenders in Belarus

03 March 2023

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ales Bialiatski © Reuters

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UN Human Rights spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani



The prison sentences delivered today in Belarus against four human rights defenders, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ales Bialiatski, on smuggling and extremism-related charges, are deeply troubling and indicative of the ongoing repression in the country.

Bialiatski, the Chairman of the Viasna Human Rights Center, was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Three other Viasna members - Valiantsin Stefanovich, Uladzimir Labkovich, and Dzmitry Salauyou - were given terms of nine, seven and eight years respectively. Salauyou was tried in absentia.

The lack of independence of the judiciary and other violations of fair trial guarantees have resulted in human rights defenders in Belarus being criminally prosecuted, convicted and sentenced for their legitimate human rights work.

On 17 February, 10 members of the Workers Movement "Rabochy Rukh", including six independent trade unionists, were sentenced to between 12 to 15 years, on extremism and high treason charges. On 8 February, journalist Andrzej Poczobut, was sentenced to eight years in prison.

We remain deeply concerned that, as of today, some 1,458 people are reported to be in detention in Belarus on politically motivated charges.

As we mark the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk has called for an end to the persecution of human rights defenders and of people expressing dissenting views, and for an end to arbitrary detention once and for all.

For more information and media requests, please contact:

In Geneva

Ravina Shamdasani - + 41 22 917 9169 / [email protected] or
Liz Throssell + 41 22 917 9296 / [email protected] or
Jeremy Laurence + +41 22 917 9383 / [email protected] or
Marta Hurtado - + 41 22 917 9466 / [email protected]

In Nairobi

Seif Magango - +254 788 343 897 / [email protected]

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