Today's outrageous conviction and long-term imprisonment of the prominent human rights defenders in Belarus – Ales Bialiatski, who is the chairman of Viasna group and 2022 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and his colleagues – Valiantsin Stefanovich, the deputy-president of FIDH, and Uladzimir Labkovich – is a blatant attack against justice and an attempt to silence independent critical voices and punish them for their legitimate human rights work.
This unjust decision, like dozens of other convictions of independent journalists and human rights defenders, including partners of my Office, as well as others dissenting with the regime, is the latest illustration of the large-scale and systemic reprisals and persecution of all those who courageously fight for democracy, justice and human rights in Belarus. The regime's repression and human rights violations must stop.
I reiterate my call to Council of Europe member states to stand in solidarity with Belarusian human rights defenders and civil society members and support those who remain in this country and those who fled abroad. I express my sympathy and appreciation for their courageous and devoted work, sometimes carried out at the risk of their own safety and liberty. As Commissioner for Human Rights, I will continue to foster the safety and enabling environment for human rights defenders in Belarus and elsewhere in Europe.