Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum

Letter of the EU Commissioner Štefan Füle to the EaP CSF on the arrest and detention of Ales Byalyatski

Dear participants of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum,

Thank you for your letter of 29 August 2011 on the arrest and detention of Ales Byalyatski.

I'am well aware of the important work undertaken by Ales Byalyatski, who is a pivotal actor in civil society in Belarus and a prominent voice within the international human rights community. As both Chairman of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" and Vice President of the International Federation of Human Rights, Ales Byalyatski is an internationally well known Belarusian human rights defender.

The EU is gravely concerned about the wrongful arrest and detention of Ales Byalyatski. The charges brought against him have no substance and appear to be a politically motivated pretext to seek to silence Ales Byalyatski and the Human Rights Center "Viasna". As such, his arrest and detention fit into a broader picture of widespread repression against civil society, the political opposition and the independent media since the 19 December 2010 Presidential elections.

The EU has made clear that the Belarusian authorities should drop the charges against Ales Byalyatski and immediately release him. Meanwhile, the EU is supporting Mr Byalyatski through our urgent assistance to victims of repression, notably under the Instrument for Stability. Belarus must also, without delay, halt the ongoing intimidation and harassment of the human rights community in Belarus and reverse its policy to refuse to grant legal status to independent human rights organisations in the country.

I share your views on the importance of preventing similar situations from arising in the future, in Belarus or elsewhere. It is clear that the interests of those NGOs that have been forced by repressive regimes to open individual private bank accounts in EU Member States for implementing EU assistance projects must be properly protected. The European External Action Service and the European Commission are examining to what extent safeguards could be put in place to this effect.

Please remain assured of the EU's and my own personal engagement on these matters. We are determined to use all instruments at the EU's disposal in support of all political prisoners and victims of repression in Belarus. At the same time, I am committed to continuing my engagement with civil society and the political opposition in Belarus, and to working together around the vision of a democratic Belarus with its proper place in the European family.

Yours sincerely,

Štefan Füle

Brussels, 22/09/2011

Project funded by the European UnionEU