For immediate release
Montreal, 6 December 2011 – During a meeting with Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada, and its staff, Ales Michalevic, winner of Rights & Democracy’s 2011 John Humphrey Award, called for the release of prisoners of conscience as identified by Amnesty International in Belarus, as well as hundreds of people imprisoned for expressing their views against the authoritarian regime of the President of Belarus, “Europe’s last dictator”.
Recently, Dimitri Konovalov and Vladislav Kovalyov, two young workers were accused of planning terrorist attacks in the subway of the capital in April 2011. They were sentenced to death and their fate is now in the hands of the President, although the majority of the population is convinced that the accused are not guilty of the attacks. Mr. Michalevic has also discussed this issue during the meeting with Amnesty International, as they had already initiated a campaign in support of the two young men.
Mr. Michalevic, a candidate in the presidential elections, was declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International in January 2011. He was in prison after having been arbitrarily arrested on the evening of 19 December for organizing mass demonstrations. He was released two months later and organized a press conference to denounce the torture he had suffered. “Even today in Belarus, torture is used and people are unjustly held behind bars in degrading and inhuman conditions,” said Mr. Michalevic, a lawyer by training. “These people must be released immediately so that they can continue their activities! Moreover, we urge the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture to come to Belarus and report on the situation so the international community is informed and the torture ends”.
Over 600 people were arbitrarily arrested during the night of 19 December, 2010 and several are still in prison, including Andrei Sannikov, an opposition leader, and Ales Bialiatsky, president of the Viasna Human Rights Centre. The majority of those imprisoned are human rights activists, political opponents and presidential candidates.
Following the presentation of the John Humphrey Award during a ceremony in Ottawa last week and have lectured in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary, Mr. Michalevic has returned to Europe where he will continue his fight for a more democratic and transparent Belarus.