POLISH NGOs PROTEST AGAINST LIQUIDATION OF BELARUSIAN NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS
Polish NGOs wrote an open letter to express protest against liquidation of Belarusian resource center “Ratusha”, inspired by the Belarusian authorities:
“In the end of April 2003 we witnessed another action of Belarusian authorities against the legal non-governmental organization. Hrodna regional court accomplished the campaign, aimed to ban further activities of NGO “Ratusha”. The reason was the fact, that the NGO possessed printing equipment, but did not have a license for publishing activities”. At the same time, according to the Belarusian legislation, this requirement must be applied only to commercial organizations. Application of this requirement to non-commercial organizations is not only far-fetched, but violates the Belarusian legislation.
Belarusian authorities act the same towards other non-governmental organizations: Regional Development Agency “Varuta” (Baranavichy), and Youth Christian Social Union. The authorities started the process of liquidating Homel NGO Civic Initiatives when this letter was being prepared. All organizations, mentioned above, are well-known in Poland. Many Polish organizations knew them as good partners, who deserve recognition and support.
The Belarusian authorities carry out the campaign of closing down non-governmental organizations and simultaneously stopped registration of new organizations. Since the beginning of the year none of the new initiatives managed to go through registration procedures.
Such actions crowned the numerous cases of repression, which happened in the past, against NGO Ratusha and other similar organizations. This is violation of the international conventions and state legislation. By pressure on Belarusian NGOs, the current administration acts against its own citizens. At the same time it is surprising that such authoritarian methods are used by the authorities, who continuously refer to democratic nature of their actions.
We protest against ungrounded liquidation of non-governmental organizations which are so necessary for the Belarusian society. The citizens have the right to unite, and it cannot be taken away. We declare our support to “Our Solidarity” action, initiated by the Belarusian NGOs, which expresses protest against the actions of the Belarusian authorities.
We call on Belarusian authorities to refrain from actions, which would lead to liquidation of NGO “Ratusha” and other non-governmental organizations. We call on Belarusian authorities to unconditionally keep the right to free association, according to Art 22 of the International Pact of Political and Civil Rights, ratified by the Republic of Belarus.
The open letter was signed by numerous Polish NGOs, Stefan Batory Foundation, Helsinki Human Rights Foundation, and Foundation of Education for Democracy among them.