On December 16, human rights activist, head of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee Aleh Hulak passed away. He was only 55 years old.
Aleh led a human rights organization for almost fifteen years. Colleagues appreciated him as a good negotiator that could establish and maintain long-term strategic partnerships. Aleh actively developed interaction between human rights activists, civil society, the state, and the international community.
As long as there was at least a minimal space for cooperation, Aleh was making efforts to establish contacts with the state. He was a member of the Republican Commission for Monitoring the Observance of the Rights of Convicts, the Public Advisory Council under the Head of the Presidential Administration, and a member of the Sustainable Development Partnership Group. Nevertheless, every time Aleh acted as a guide for human rights activists less favorable to the state: for example, he sought invitations for colleagues from the human rights center “Viasna” during the most important events.
Largely thanks to the efforts of Aleh, the adoption of the first in Belarus National Human Rights Plan for 2016-2019 became possible.
Under the leadership of Aleh Hulak, the Belarusian Helsinki Committee in 2022 was the first and so far the only entity in the country to receive a consultative status with UN ECOSOC and in the period 2014-2019 it was a key organization in enabling interaction between the Belarusian human rights community and the UN System in Belarus. Aleh was the initiator of technical and expert consultations between the state bodies and civil society of Belarus on issues of interaction with the UN human rights treaty bodies and of the country's participation in the Universal Periodic Report procedure.
Aleh is the creator of the idea of a national human rights index, in which not only specialists in the field of law and human rights get the voice, but also experts in the field of healthcare, education, and culture provide their assessments, which made human rights more voluminous.
Aleh put a lot of effort into making human rights a value and part of everyday routine not only for the state and human rights organizations, but also for organizations not directly related to the human rights agenda.
Thus, he was the initiator of the introduction of a human rights-based approach at different levels. At the same time, Aleh managed to provide expert support to small media, NGOs, and the UN country office.
It was during Aleh’s leadership that the Belarusian Helsinki Committee started promoting the important topics of business and human rights in Belarus. Aleh paid special attention to the topics in the context of the political and human rights crisis of 2020-2021, how the state is trying to make business complicit in violations of people's rights. The guideline, developed with the participation of Aleh, allows for quick familiarization with the topics of "business and human rights" and provides basic tools for introducing appropriate approaches to business processes and government regulation. In 2018, information about the leadership was published on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the banking sector of Belarus became interested in the topic, and a well-known PR consultant from the corporate sector called the introduction of the topic “business and human rights” “a real breakthrough in topics about communication.”
In 2016 Aleh was rewarded with the Franco-German Human Rights and the Rule of Law Prize.
Colleagues not only respect Aleh, but also adore him. In this text, they asked to note: “Aleh trusts the team, always listens to the opinions of others – it is a pleasure to work with him!”; “You could discuss anything with him: from how to properly pickle a fish, to the discography of Deep Purple.”
In the first hours after Aleh's death, journalists sent us the following recollection of him: “A. and I would often recall 2013. We, then still quite young, worked all day at an event in Vilnius. We worked there online, while curtailed, it was already late for the buffet. Aleh went to look for us to eat. He returned - in each hand between the fingers, 4 glasses of champagne, with the words: “They ate the whole appetizer, but I found champagne.”
One will be able to pay last tribute to Aleh in St. John's University Church. He will then be cremated, and his ashes will be buried in his homeland in Zhylichy, Mahilou region.