International League of Human Rights Condemns Ongoing Persecution of Belarusian NGOs
Open letter of International League of Human Rights
To: Aleksandr Lukashenko
Republic of Belarus
FAX: 011 375 17 226 06 10
To: Mr. Viktor Golovanov
FAX: 011 17 220 97 55
October 30, 2003
Dear Mr. Lukashenko,
The International League for Human Rights, an international non-government organization with a consultative status at the United Nations ECOSOC is writing to condemn the recent decision by the Belarusian Supreme Court to liquidate Viasna, a prominent non-government organization (NGO). The League also condemns your government’s ongoing concerted assault on Belarus’ NGO community.
On October 28, the Belarusian Supreme Court ruled to shut down Viasna based on the Justice Ministry’s lawsuit, in part alleging that the group violated electoral regulations during the September 2001 presidential election. The Ministry filed the lawsuit in early September 2003 and the hearings began later that month.
Immediately after the verdict was announced, eight Viasna activists, including its chairman Ales Byalyatski, staged a sit-in protest in the courtroom, chanting “Shame!” Shortly, the protesters were escorted out of the courthouse by the police, detained for the remainder of the day, and charged with disobeying the police.
The next day, Minsk’s Leninsky District Court found all eight activists guilty and ordered them to pay fines.
Viasna’s closure appears to be part of the ongoing harassment campaign against independent NGOs in Belarus which are vocal in advocating human rights and democratic reforms. In 2003, your government shut down numerous NGOs, including Ratusha, Civic Initiatives, Legal Assistance to the Population, and Youth Christian Socialist Union.
Currently, two more organizations, the Helping Hand, a prominent charity which provides assistance to current and former convicts and the Independent Society of Legal Research are under the threat of closure.
You must be aware that your government’s actions violate the commitments undertaken by Belarus to uphold international standards of freedom of expression and assembly. The League calls on you and your officials to respect the Belarusian citizens’ fundamental human rights and cease the persecution of non-government organizations in Belarus immediately.
Thank you for your attention. We await your response.