As part of Libereco’s #WeStandBYyou solidarity campaign, Stefan Gelbhaar (German Bundestag, Alliance 90/The Greens), Nicola Beer (European Parliament, FDP) and Anton Hofreiter (German Bundestag, Alliance 90/The Greens) are taking over godparenthood for political prisoners in Belarus.

#FreeViasna: Ales, Valiantsin and Uladzimir

Uladzimir Labkovich is a lawyer at the Human Rights Center “Viasna” and coordinator of the campaign “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections”. He was arrested together with his wife Nina Labkovich on July 14 after a search of their apartment and has since then been held in Pre-trial Detention Center No. 1 in Minsk. His wife was released from prison on July 23.

Stefan Gelbhaar

Stefan Gelbhaar, Member of the German Bundestag, has taken over the godparenthood for Uladzimir Labkovich and states: “Uladzimir Labkovich was detained on July 14, 2021. He worked as a well-known human rights lawyer for the Belarusian NGO Viasna. Viasna is very committed to advocating for political prisoners who have been detained since the rigged presidential election over a year ago. The tireless, peaceful protest of the democracy movement in Belarus is impressive. It is important to remember the courageous people who risk their freedom and their lives to fight for a democratic Belarus. Again and again and more and more lawyers are criminalized because of their work. So now also 7 employees of Viasna have been imprisoned, one of them is Uladzimir Labkovich. The right to exercise their profession and defend defendants must always be guaranteed without danger in a state governed by the rule of law. I demand the immediate and unconditional release of Uladzimir Labkovich and the other unlawfully detained!”

Nicola Beer

Ales Bialiatski is the Chairman of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” and former Vice President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). He is a laureate of the Andrei Sakharov Freedom Prize and other international human rights awards. In 2006, 2007 and 2012 he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. In 2020, Ales Bialiatski was awarded the Right Livelihood Award (“Alternative Nobel Prize”). Ales Bialiatski had already been imprisoned as a political prisoner from August 2011 to June 2014 due to his decades-long commitment as a human rights defender. Along with other Viasna employees, he was arrested on July 14, 2021 and taken to Pre-trial Detention Center No. 1.

Nicola Beer, the Vice-President of the European Parliament, has adopted Ales Bialiatski and declares: “Being an active member of the civil society is not a crime – the new democratic Belarus on the rise needs you, Ales Bialiatski. With my goodparenthood I will fight for your immediate release and do my best so you can keep up with protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms again!” In a video statement Nicola Beer adds: “I am honored to take on again responsibility. Responsibility as a godparent for one of the hundreds of political prisoners in Belarus. Ales Bialiatski is an honored man. He has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize several times for protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms with non-violent activities. For doing this, he is now in pre-trial detention and faces trumped-up charges. This is how you define a political prisoner.”

Anton Hofreiter

Valiantsin Stefanovich is a member of the board of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” and Vice-President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). He has been campaigning for respect for human rights in Belarus for decades. On the morning of 14 July, he was arrested at his home and all his equipment was confiscated. The search of his flat was carried out by officers of the Financial Investigation Department. Two articles of the Criminal Code were mentioned in the search warrant: Article 342 (organisation of and participation in acts grossly disturbing public order) and Article 243 (tax evasion).

Anton Hofreiter, Chair of the Bündnis 90/DieGrünen parliamentary group in the German Bundestag, said on the occasion of taking over a godparenthood for Valiantsin Stefanovich: “I have the greatest respect for the courage of the people in Belarus who put their lives on the line to raise their voices for human rights and free elections. One year after the rigged presidential elections in Belarus, the wave of repression against opposition figures continues. The number of political prisoners is increasing daily. Independent editorial offices and NGOs are also under increasing pressure: they are threatened, searched or closed down. The harsh and arbitrary sentence against Maria Kolesnikova – eleven years imprisonment – is another attempt by Lukashenka’s regime of injustice to deter and silence his opponents. On behalf of all those who now need our support and solidarity, I am taking over a political godparenthood for Valiantsin Stefanovich from the Human Rights Center Viasna. I call for his immediate release as well as the unconditional release of the more than 650 political prisoners in Belarus.”