published : 2023-11-07

Belarus Transfers Nobel Laureate Ales Bialiatski to Solitary Confinement

Bialiatski: A Champion for Human Rights in Belarus

A photo of Ales Bialiatski advocating for human rights in Belarus, taken with a Nikon D850.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate and activist Ales Bialiatski has been transferred to solitary confinement at his prison in Belarus, his wife revealed on Tuesday.

Despite his chronic illnesses, the 61-year-old Bialiatski, who is serving a 10-year sentence, has faced intensified conditions, effectively creating a prison within a prison.

His wife, Natalia Pinchuk, informed The Associated Press that authorities denied Bialiatski access to his lawyer following the transfer, claiming disciplinary violations.

Bialiatski, a leading human rights advocate in Belarus and one of the recipients of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize, together with three colleagues, was convicted in March on charges of financing actions that allegedly violated public order and smuggling—a vehement denial from him.

Currently being held in a prison colony for repeat offenders located in the city of Gorki, Bialiatski endures an environment known for physical abuse and forced labor.

An image of the prison where Ales Bialiatski is being held in solitary confinement, captured with a Canon 5D Mark IV.

Pinchuk, speaking from Strasbourg, where she attended a Council of Europe conference, expressed her concerns: 'The prison colony in Gorki has an awful reputation as a conveyor belt for tormenting political prisoners. The authorities in Belarus are continuing brutal repressions, showing that they may subject anyone to torturous conditions regardless of the Nobel prize.'

The arrest of Bialiatski and his colleagues was a response to the widespread protests following a disputed 2020 election, which extended the rule of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko—an election widely regarded as a sham by the opposition and many in the West.

These protests represented the largest in Belarus' history, resulting in over 35,000 arrests and numerous cases of police brutality.

Lukashenko, a long-standing ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and supporter of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, has maintained his grip on Belarus since 1994.

In recognition of his tireless advocacy for human rights, Ales Bialiatski shared the 2022 Nobel Prize with Memorial, a leading Russian human rights group, and the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties.

A powerful picture of peaceful protesters in Belarus advocating for change, shot on a Sony A7 III.

Bialiatski is the founder of Viasna, Belarus' most prominent human rights organization, which has been unjustly labeled an 'extremist organization' by Belarusian authorities.

In light of Bialiatski's transfer to solitary confinement, Pavel Sapelka, a representative of Viasna, expressed concern over potential restrictions on prison conditions, such as limited walks, prison meals, and food deliveries, signaling an alarming escalation in the severity of his confinement.

According to Sapelka, Belarus currently holds 1,462 political prisoners as the authorities persistently impede access to legal representation and ignore international norms concerning the treatment of political prisoners.