"We wish to express our solidarity with all those who suffer from any form of oppression and injustice, and with those in the world who have been silenced or marginalized." - Oswaldo Paya
In the midst of the pain and sorrow surrounding the untimely deaths of Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero it is still necessary to remember those in other parts of the world suffering repression at the hands of tyrants. Today, August 4, 2012 has been set aside as the International Day of Solidarity with Civil Society of Belarus.
This is what Oswaldo would do if he were physically with us today because he believed in the power of human solidarity and the importance to demonstrate it and apply it for the sake of humanity itself. Oswaldo Paya placed solidarity into the modern day context observing: "The talk today is of globalization, but we must state that unless there is global solidarity, not only human rights but also the right to remain human will be jeopardized."
August 4th, 2011 is the day selected because a prominent dissident and human rights defender Ales Bialiatski was arrested on that day. Ales is a leading figure in the defense of human rights as chairman of the Human Rights Center "Viasna", and vice-president of the International Federation for Human Rights. It also important to remember the crucial role played by the arts in civil society to create spaces of freedom.
Furthermore, the tyrant of Belarus visited the tyrant of Cuba in March of 2012 and reached out to cooperate with a fellow repressive dictator. This adds another reason as to why free Cubans and Belarusians need to reach out in solidarity with one another in confronting their shared challenges to obtain freedom.
The organizers of the event published a statement explaining the significance of the day stating that their objective is to attract attention to the human rights situation in Belarus, and to express solidarity with the Belarusian citizens fighting for their civil rights under permanent pressure and harassment. I joined together with other friends in celebrating the 20th anniversary of Belarus's independence from the Soviet Union on August 25, 2011. Today my prayers go out to Belarus's civil society and two Cubans who died under mysterious circumstances on July 22, 2012. At the same time reproducing the important document below released by the organizers of the solidarity day.
International Day of Solidarity
with civil society and human rights movements in Belarus
We, the activists of civil and human rights organizations from various countries around the world declare our initiative to establish International Day of Solidarity with the civil society and human rights movement in Belarus on the 4th of August.
Being in the heart of Europe, Belarus is the only country of the continent, where the death penalty is enforced and where the European Convention on Human Rights does not apply.
Even in such conditions, civil society in Belarus is one of the most powerful in the post-Soviet area. Every day, Belarusian human rights defenders provide legal support to dozens of people. The lawyers from Belarus win cases in the Human Rights Committee and other UN bodies. Directors, artists, writers and musicians continue to create. The Belarusian rock-band "Lyapis Trubetskoy" is known all around the world for their songs and civil position, despite the fact that at home they are included in the "black list" of banned artists.
Politicians of our countries criticize the authorities of Belarus, then they sit down to talks; they impose sanctions, but keep on trading; they threaten Belarusian authorities with isolation, at the same time maintaining relations. But leave it to politicians!
In contrast to politicians, we – civil society activists, human rights defenders and simply concerned citizens – consider it important to express our support to the Belarusian civil society, members of which carry on promoting and protecting human rights standards and the rule of law, offering new ideas and initiatives, helping people to meet, talk, write and create. And all of this is taking place in spite of the systematic violations of fundamental human rights: freedom of assembly, association and expression – the foundations, without which civil society can not exist.
We want to draw attention to the situation in Belarus and to show our solidarity with those people who fight for their freedom under constant pressure and persecution. On this day, we’d like the attention of mass media, news agencies and citizens of our countries being as much as possible attracted to what is going on with civil society in this European country, to its problems and difficulties. We want our colleagues in Belarus feel our support to help them go further with strengthening human rights and the rule of law in their country.
On this day - August 4, 2011 - Ales Bialiatski was arrested. He is one of the leading Belarusian human rights defenders, the head of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" and the vice-president of the International Federation for Human Rights. For many people this moment marked a new phase of pressure on human rights defenders and civil activists in Belarus, where massive human rights violations had become common practice.
We have established this day not to support any political opposition. On this day, one should not hear calls to overthrow the existing political regime in Belarus, but calls to comply with international obligations in the area of human rights, undertaken by Belarus.
We believe that freedom has no boundaries. We think that the situation in Belarus should be considered as a challenge for civil society all across Europe and Eurasia. We are convinced that all of this area can not be considered the territory of freedom, as long as there are countries (like Belarus) where freedom is restricted.
We believe that while there is at least one state that easily and with impunity shows disregard for the opinion of its own citizens as well as international norms and principles, such a scenario will be possible in other countries, authorities of which continue seeking new ways of how to silence voices of their critics and opponents, and quickly adopt the "worst practices" of their neighbors. In fact, the only thing we can oppose to it – is our international solidarity.
We will observe this day every year, until the situation of civil society in Belarus changes: until its authorities put an end to imprisoning people for human rights activities, until there is a guarantee of fundamental human rights: freedom of expression, assembly and association.