"Vyasna" rights group unveils new office (photo)

The human rights center "Vyasna" has "finally obtained a new office to replace the confiscated apartment of Ales Byalyatski. According to Valyantsin Stefanovich, the state cannot confiscate the new apartment despite the wildest desire.

Valyantsin Stefanovich: "The owner of this apartment is not a citizen of Belarus and does not live in Belarus. We use and own this apartment on the basis of powers-of-attorney, executed in my name and in the name of Uladz Labkovich. We have as broad authorizations and rights as possible, like, we can rent it if we want. Therefore, I hope we will stay here for long.

"Vyasna" does not only use the apartment free of charge, but has a right to sell it.

The HR defenders also presented the review-chronicle "Situation with Human Rights in Belarus" for 2012 and the "Report upon the results of the monitoring of penal places in Belarus".

"Our task was to convey the situation which developed in the Belarusian prisons, to the society, making people realize that these are the system problems, they do not depend just on the people who execute punishment, or prison directors. These problems are caused by the very essence of our penal norms", - author of the "Report" lawyer Pavel Sapelka explains to the audience. 

Despite the new office, the HR defenders do not feel the situation is improving, complains Valyantsin Stefanovich. They have no special hopes for the political liberalization, even despite the negotiations with the European Union.

Valyantsin Stefanovich: "It would be good of course if at least political prisoners were released, or the criminal harassment under political reasons lessened. However, I think we should not hope for broader reforms which would let us speak about some liberalization in the country." 

Besides, today's the 10th anniversary since the day when the authorities cancelled the official registration of "Vyasna". The HR defenders worked as a non-registered organization all this time, but they did not hide, claims Stefanovich. They are not going to hide furthermore, although they have already got numerous warnings from the Prosecutor General.

Photo: Zmicier Lukashuk, Euroradio