Ales Bialiatski, imprisoned whistleblower of the repression in Belarus

And the Nobel goes to… Imprisoned since July 2021 in Belarus, Ales Bialiatski received the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday. He has been for decades, with his organization Viasna (“Spring”), the face of the defense of rights in an increasingly authoritarian country.

Bialiatski, 60, was arrested for “tax evasion”, a case seen as revenge for Alexander Lukashenko. In power since 1994, the president has muzzled any form of criticism with arrests or batons, since the vast post-election protest movement of the summer of 2020 which shook his regime.

This is not Ales Bialiatski’s first time in prison, nor his first wave of repression. His previous incarceration, from 2011 to 2014, had also been orchestrated for tax reasons. His arrest then came a few months after a presidential election which had already given rise to severely repressed opposition demonstrations.

“Serial repressions”

“During his 25 years of activism, Bialiatski has faced serial repressions,” noted the NGO Human Rights Watch last year. After having subdued the demonstrations of the summer and autumn of 2020, the Belarusian regime attacked the media and organizations deemed critical, imprisoning leaders or activists for various reasons. Viasna and Bialiatski were no exception.

Founded in 1996 during massive pro-democracy protests in Belarus, Viasna began its work providing aid to incarcerated people and their relatives. His work then extended to the defense of human rights in general, in a country where abuses are widespread in this area.

Bialiatski, hair and short white beard, was one of the members of the “coordination council” set up by the Belarusian opposition last year to contest the re-election deemed fraudulent of Alexander Lukashenko. Almost all of the members of this council have been imprisoned or driven into exile, while dozens of independent media and NGOs have been liquidated by court order.

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