Twenty five human rights organizations from Belarus, international human rights fighters and experts took part in the Forum.
On the whole, more than 110 activists representing 25 organizations gathered in Vilnius on October 26 for the Third Belarusian Human Rights Forum.
Speaking at the two-day event, Tatsiana Raviaka, representative from the Human Rights Centre “Viasna”, said that Belarusan human rights movement was “developing and expanding.” The previous Belarusian Human Rights Forum, held in 2010, brought together representatives of only 17 organizations, she stressed.
The activist noted that rights defenders in Belarus had experienced many ordeals since 2010. “These ordeals have not scared us but have demonstrated what big potential human rights defenders have as they have displayed great teamwork in solving problems, an incredible level of solidarity and mutual support,” said Tatsiana Raviaka.
Referring to imprisoned Viasna leader Ales Bialiatski, Tatsiana Raviaka said that his conviction was a challenge to Belarus’ entire human rights community. According to her, Bialiatski told associates that he was with the forum’s participants in his thoughts and asked for one chair in the auditorium to be reserved for him and left vacant.
The forum had been organized by Viasna, the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, the Center for Legal Transformation (Lawtrend), the Belarusian Association of Journalists, Salidarnasc (Solidarity), an organization that helps victims of political persecution in Belarus, as well as the Lithuanian-registered Belarusian Documentation Center, Belarusian Assembly of Non-governmental Pro-democratic Organizations and Belarusian Human Rights House.
“Third Forum is an important event for the Belarusan human rights community, and it would be our pleasure to hold this meeting in Minsk, - noted in the interview with the EuroBelarus Information Service Elena Tonkacheva, the head of the Legal Transformation Centre “Lawtrend”. – However, for it is impossible, as a number of foreign colleagues wouldn’t be able to join us in that case. And this is the main reason why we are meeting in Vilnius”.
As to the expectations from the Forum, Elena Tonkacheva emphasized that Forum provides human rights fighters with a perfect opportunity to revise the agenda: “Belarusan human rights fighters and the authorities”, “Belarusan human rights fighters and the international community”, “Belarusan human rights fighters and the researchers”.
“We are to reconsider the main challenges on a number of problems and agree on the agenda in the result”, she said.