Belarus puts Ales Bialiatski, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, in solitary confinement

On Tuesday, November 7, in a deeply troubling development, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and activist Ales Bialiatski was transferred to solitary confinement at a prison in Belarus, according to his wife, Natalia Pinchuk. This drastic move comes amidst an already challenging environment, as Bialiatski serves a 10-year sentence, facing harsh conditions despite his chronic illnesses.

Natalia Pinchuk, speaking to The Associated Press, expressed her concern about the intensified conditions her husband is now facing. Describing it as a “prison inside prison,” she revealed that prison authorities denied Bialiatski the opportunity to meet with his lawyer following his transfer, citing alleged disciplinary violations. Pinchuk, addressing the grim reality of the situation, remarked on the notorious reputation of the Gorki prison colony, characterizing it as a “conveyor belt for tormenting political prisoners.” She emphasized that the Belarusian authorities’ actions signal ongoing brutal repressions, demonstrating a willingness to subject individuals to torturous conditions irrespective of their international recognition, such as the Nobel Prize. Pavel Sapelka, a representative of Viasna, also voiced concerns over the potential implications of Bialiatski’s transfer to solitary confinement, including restrictions on walks, prison meals, and food deliveries. He highlighted the broader issue, stating that Belarus currently holds 1,462 political prisoners, and condemned the authorities for obstructing access to lawyers and disregarding international norms regarding political prisoners.

The actions done by the Belarusian authorities, including the harsh prison conditions, denial of legal representation, showed profound violations of fundamental human rights and international norms. The international community must respond decisively, advocating for accountability, transparency, and an end to the repression of human rights advocates. The ironic treatment of a Nobel laureate underscores the blatant disregard for global recognition and human rights standards in Belarus.

Bialiatski’s arrest and subsequent imprisonment, along with his colleagues, were a response to massive protests following the controversial 2020 election, which extended authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko’s rule. The election was widely criticized by the opposition and the West as a sham, leading to the largest protests in Belarus’ history, with over 35,000 arrests and brutal treatment by the police.

In conclusion, the move to place Ales Bialiatski in solitary confinement is not only an affront to his fundamental rights but also emblematic of the escalating repression faced by activists in Belarus. As an organization committed to effective and holistic peace processes, we strongly condemn such acts of oppression and call for international attention and intervention to address the deteriorating human rights situation in Belarus.