One Year of Crackdown on Viasna

17 September 2021 marked one year since the beginning of the crackdown on Viasna, FIDH’s organisation member and Belarus’ leading human rights NGO. Jointly with Viasna, FIDH organised a global rally under the hashtag #FREEVIASNA to stand in solidarity for our imprisoned colleagues and Belarus civil society.

  • by EECA
  • 24 August 2021

On September 17 last year, Marfa Rabkova, coordinator of the Viasna volunteer network, was arbitrary detained, and two weeks later Viasna’s volunteer Andrei Chapyuk was also thrown behind bars. Over the following 12 months, several criminal cases were mounted against Viasna’s leadership, members and volunteers. Its offices and employees apartments were searched multiple times, dozens of Viasna’s members were arbitrarily detained. In January 2021, Leanid Sudalenka, head of the Viasna Homiel branch, and Tatsiana Lasitsa, a volunteer with the same branch, were put behind bars. The trial against them is ongoing.

On 14 July 2021, Belarus authorities arbitrarily detained Viasna’s leadership. For more than two months now, Ales Bialiatski, Viasna’s Chairman and former Vice-President of FIDH, Valiantsin Stefanovic, member of Viasna’s Board and Vice-President of FIDH, as well as Uladzimir Labkovich, Viasna’s lawyer have been languishing in detention. Today, seven members of Viasna remain behind bars on trumped-up charges.

It is not the first time the authorities target Viasna, throughout the 25 years of striving for human rights the organisation was persecuted and harassed, deprived of its official registration under the national law, and its leaders were imprisoned. Despite all-out repression by the Belarusian authorities, Viasna continues its courageous fight for human rights, helping victims of abuses and denouncing widespread repression from Aliaksandr Lukashenka’s long-standing authoritarian regime.

How to support the campaign?

1. Spread the word about the campaign

Use your networks and social media to tell the world about the campaign using the #FreeViasna hashtag. Reach out to the international organisations, NGOs, your local governments and share with them information about the crackdown on Viasna and the human rights situation in Belarus.

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2. Take a picture with a #FreeViasna poster

Take a picture with a campaign banner or a poster. Ask your family, friends and colleagues to join! Do not forget to share your pictures on social media using the #FreeViasna hashtag.

3. Write an open letter

You can support Viasna by writing an open letter to an imprisoned human rights defender. You will find a guide on how to do so here. Do not hesitate to reach out to should you have questions. And please share your open letter on your social networks using the hashtag #FreeViasna.

International solidarity

On 17 September 2021, 23 international and Belarusian human rights organisations issued a statement demanding the release of seven detained Viasna members, and highlighting the plight of hundreds of others, who have been prosecuted and jailed solely for exercising their rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.

Organisations supporting the #FreeViasna campaign

 Article 19
 Amnesty International
 Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House
 Belarusian Helsinki Committee
 Civil Rights Defenders
 European Platform for Democratic Elections
 FIDH - International Federation for Human Rights
 Freedom House
 Front Line Defenders
 Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights
 Human Rights House Foundation
 Human Rights Center Viasna
 Human Rights Watch
 International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR)
 Libereco – Partnership for Human Rights
 Netherlands Helsinki Committee
 Östgruppen - Swedish Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights
 OMCT | World Organisation Against Torture
 People In Need
 Protection International
 Reporters Without Borders
 Right Livelihood

The world has shown solidarity with Viasna as numerous NGOs organised rallies, public figures and government representatives shared their support under the hashtag #FreeViasna.


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