The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), in the framework of their joint programme, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, express their deepest concern at the impending opening of a liquidation suit against the Belarus Human Rights NGO Viasna, and at the liquidation of Legal Assistance to Population.

2003 2003-09-18T10:00:00+0300 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

Paris - Geneva, 17 September 2003

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World
Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), in the framework of their joint
programme, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights
Defenders, express their deepest concern at the impending opening of
a liquidation suit against the Belarus Human Rights NGO Viasna, and
at the liquidation of Legal Assistance to Population.

The liquidation suit against Viasna, which is to start on 23
September, follows the check-ups of five of Viasna offices, that
occurred between March and June 2003 .

According to the Ministry of Justice, Viasna would have violated
accountancy rules, by presenting reportedly forged document during
its registration in 1999. Moreover, the non-payment of membership
fees is considered as a violation of the organisation's statutes.

The request of the Ministry mentions that Viasna has violated the
Ruling of the Central Electoral Commission on Elections and Holding
of Republican Referenda of 8 September 2001, by participating in
independent monitoring of the last presidential election. By doing
so, Viasna drew the attention of the international community to the
numerous violations of the election legislation. Viasna is also
accused of having requested to the Supreme Court the right to defend
and represent the interests of individuals who are not members of the
organisation. This allegedly constitutes a breach of Article 72 of
the Civil Process Code, and of article 22 of the Law " about public
associations ". The Observatory therefore considers that the real
motives of the Ministry of Justice are linked with the organisation's
activities. This restricts freedoms of expression and of association,
and constitutes arbitrary judicial harassment.

The Observatory is also concerned by the liquidation of Legal
Assistance to Population, another Human Rights NGO. The liquidation
suit had started on 2 August. According to the Civil Process Code and
to the Law " about public associations ", legal advice requires a
specific license, which the organisation did not have, because it had
previously been deprived of it by the Ministry of Justice.

The Observatory had already denounced the increasing harassment
campaign against NGOs. In the last few months, many organisations
have been liquidated for alleged administrative irregularities, such
as Ratusha,

Varuta, the Youth Christian Union, Civil Initiatives, Kontur, etc
(see Observatory open letter to Mr Aleksander Lukashenko, 8 August
2003, and Information Document
received from Viasna attached, entitled: "Interdiction
("liquidation") of non-governmental organisations"). The Observatory
is all the more concerned by the situation of
Viasna for all these recent examples show that most liquidation suits
result in the liquidation of the NGO.

The Observatory notes that these events represent a new and
unacceptable step in state repression of human rights defenders in
Belarus. The Observatory therefore urges
the Belarus authorities to cease harassment of Human Rights
defenders, to implement international and regional instruments for
the protection of human rights. In
particular, the Observatory calls the authorities to comply with the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the
OSCE Copenhagen Document, as well as with the UN Declaration on Human
Rights Defenders and the Resolution on the situation of Human Rights
in Belarus, adopted by the UN Commission on Human Rights on 17 April
2003.

The Observatory will refer this situation to Mrs. Hina Jilani,
Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Human Rights
Defenders.

Press contact : OMCT : 00 41 22 809 49 39
FIDH : 00 33 1 43 55 20 11

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