People of Word (32)

PEN Centers Condemn Belarusian Court’s Verdict in Trial of Writer Ales Bialiacki

PEN America, PEN Belarus, PEN Armenia, and PEN Moscow Make Joint Statement on International Writers for Peace Day.

In anticipation of a verdict in the criminal case against Belarusian writer Ales Bialiacki convicted to 10 years of medium security penal colony, PEN Belarus, PEN Armenia, PEN Moscow, and PEN America published a joint statement to condemn Bialiacki’s continued detention and call for his immediate and unconditional release. The four PEN centers make the statement from a Yerevan-based conference in honor of International Writers for Peace Day, established at the 1984 PEN Congress in Tokyo. Their statement serves as a clarion call for writers everywhere to demand peace at a time of devastating war and oppression.

The joint statement said:

“We write as writers and human rights defenders from the PEN network across the Eurasia region and the United States to jointly condemn the politically-motivated trial of Ales Bialiacki. Today, March 3, 2023, Bialiacki should be celebrating International Writers for Peace Day with his fellow PEN members. Instead, he spends another day in jail, awaiting a verdict in an unjust trial.

While PEN members gather for this historic convening in Yerevan—coming together for the first time in the spirit of cultural exchange and mutual understanding—Bialiacki’s detention is a stark image of the very injustice we collectively oppose. As a literary figure at the helm of one of Belarus’s foremost human rights organizations, his work embodies the tenets of International Writers for Peace Day: free expression, literature, and peace. 

Bialiacki is one of countless Belarusians jailed since Aleksander Lukashenka’s fraudulent election spurred a government crackdown on dissent. In Belarus, the authorities defend Lukashenka’s dictatorship by making the defense of human rights a criminal act. We reject every step of the criminal prosecution of Bialiacki and call for his immediate and unconditional release. We condemn the arrests and imprisonments of all writers jailed in the Eurasia region and around the world. We urge writers everywhere to join us in commemorating International Writers for Peace Day because in times of war, we unite our voices in support of peace.”

Ales Bialiacki is a writer, the founder of the human rights organization Viasna, and a PEN Belarus member. In July 2021, he was arrested on politically-motivated “tax evasion” charges. He faces up to 12 years in prisonconvicted to 10 years of imprisonment. His verdict is expected on March 3, 2023. Bialiacki is one of three 2022 Nobel Peace Prize laureates. He was recognized alongside the Russian human rights organization Memorial and the Ukrainian human rights organization Center for Civil Liberties. Together, the laureates demonstrate the significance of civil society in promoting peace

International Writers for Peace Day is honored annually on March 3 to unite writers’ voices and demand peace from those with the power of war. This year, PEN America, PEN Armenia, PEN Belarus, and PEN Moscow gathered in-person for the first time to celebrate International Writers for Peace Day in Yerevan, Armenia. The Day was established alongside the formation of the Writers for Peace Committee at the 1984 PEN Congress in Tokyo.