One More Liquidation: “Legal Assistance to Citizens”
On 2 August the Public association “Legal Assistance to Citizens’ received the letter from Minsk City Court where it was stated that the court had to consider the suit of the Justice Ministry’s Board for liquidation of the association.
“Legal Assistance to Citizens” is one of the biggest human rights organizations n Belarus. Since 1998 it has give juridical support to 4 000 people with low income. During the last three years it actively represented interests of disabled people, war veterans, single mothers, under aged and unemployed persons at trials. The monitoring of the trial informed the publicity about numerous gross violations of citizens’ rights by the State and described drawbacks of the law machinery and the governing bodies.
The organization became even more popular due to participation of its representatives in the cases of kidnap of the ex-Minister of Internal Affairs Yury Zakharanka, vice-speaker of the Supreme Soviet Viktar Hanchar, the businessman Anatol Krasowski and the ORT cameraman Zmitser Zavadski, in the case of mass peril at the pedestrian underground crossing of the “Niamiha” tube station as a result of the police negligence. The public observers, prepared by the organization, monitored the Presidential and the Parliamentary elections, the election to Local Deputy Soviets. The organization also maintains educational activity, has issued about 20 books and brochures.
The association activity in this direction was noticed by the control bodies. In September 2002 the Justice Board of the Justice Ministry made a check-up of the association statute activity. On 18 September 2002 the association received a warning where it was stated that “Legal Assistance to Citizens” had no right to represent peoples’ interests at trials. This warning was complained against to Minsk City Court that found the warning lawful.
On 17 March 2002 the Minister of Justice ordered to deprive Aleh Volchak, the association Head of the license for providing juridical service. Aleh Volchak found it out only in half a year.
For this year the Justice Ministry has carried out no check-ups and the association members wonder what the liquidation suit could be grounded on. They think that such actions of the Justice Ministry are directed at deprival of human rights activists from the possibility to give timely and qualified legal assistance, and the authorities, preparing to the referendum on changing of the Constitution and prolongation of the Presidential powers, intends to exercise complete control of activity of human rights and other public organizations that work with a