Who Is the Next? – Jawhen Wapa’s Impressions of “Viasna” Liquidation
It’s getting sad again. In the end of October the Supreme Court of the Republic of Belarus satisfied the suit of the Ministry of Justice for liquidation of “Human Rights Center “Viasna”, one of the most respected organizations in the republic and abroad. It was established in the beginning of 1996 in order to prove to the Belarusian society the importance of struggle for human rights and directly support the person, repressed by the State system. The responsibility and engagement of the people, that created the developed net of the organization all over the country, was quite fruitful. The authorities disliked the public reception rooms where one could receive juridical support free of charge, the timely and professional information about violations of laws in the relations between the State and citizens that was distributed in Belarus and abroad in the form of press releases and yearly reviews and the support to the families of the disappeared politicians. Another positive feature of “Viasna” work was usage of Belarusian language. It’s a pity and sounds as a terrible paradox, but in Belarus the limitation of Belarusian language and education space in favor of russification is one of the most frequent civil and human rights violations. When in 2001, during the Presidential election, Bialiatski headed the independent monitoring net that registered the falsifications and violations of the electoral law by the authorities, it was clear that the authorities wouldn’t forget it. The Central electoral commission issued a warning to “Viasna” for its engagement in the process of monitoring and the Ministry of Justice started numerous check-ups with the aim to liquidate “Viasna”.
Liquidation on Political Order
“Shame, shame”, -- one could hear these words in the hall of the Supreme Court on 28 October, when Judge Valiantsina Kulik satisfied the suit of the Ministry of Justice for liquidation of the human rights organization. However, to some extent she saved her professional reputation – she dismissed all of the administrative “violations” that the Ministry of Justice had allegedly found during its check-ups and grounded her decision on the abovementioned warning of the Central electoral commission. In this way she emphasized the political nature of “Viasna” liquidation. It’s worth mentioning that on the demand of the defendants the trial was led in Belarusian language and the usage of Belarusian language by Judge lets me hope that officials can speak it if necessary. However, the fact that the liquidation verdict was read in Belarusian is not a joyful occasion for the liquidated organization. At the trial the organization Head Ales Bialiatski said: “As it was during the communist rule, NGOs are closed and driven out to the underground. The authorities view them not as a partner, but as a rival and even an enemy to do away with. The example of “Viasna” here is a classical one.
Year 2003 is a sad one for Belarusian NGOs: 19 organizations of different profile, including “Viasna”, have been already liquidated. What has the civil society in Belarus done to deserve such an attack? We should look for the answer in the past and the near future.
The Presidential election of 2001 showed that the real organizational potential of Belarusian democratic community was more strong in the NGOs than in the political parties, hunt down by the authorities. The way of nomination of the independent candidate and even the person of the independent candidate weren’t understandable for the majority of the politically active Belarusian society. In this situation leaders of parties tried to work for the trade union official Hancharyk, but ordinary members of parties often didn’t even participate in the campaign they didn’t believe in. It was evident that the “third sector” was dealing with the organizational work as it more successfully coped with the demands of the electoral contest. The authorities noticed that NGOs and independent mass media are a considerable factor for the Belarusian reality. In practice it defined the assault on these considerable parts of every democratic party. The evidence of the increasing role of the non-governmental movement is the election to the Local Deputy Soviets in spring 2003. The majority of the candidates who managed to become deputies, belonged to the “third sector”. In 2004 the election to the Parliament, the so-called “chamber” will take place. Taking into account the evens that await the Belarusian people, the authoritarian system doesn’t want to admit to the election a considerable group of the democratic coalition. The future parliamentarians will most probably decide the question of giving Aliaksandr Lukashenka the possibility to run for the third Presidential term, while according to the Constitution Aliaksandr Lukashenka has to retire from the presidential position after two terms. If the people will ask for it, the Chamber will change the Constitution… Everything is possible. Another thing is falsification of the Union of Russian and Belarus, the heaven which President promised, by the deputies. That’s why opposition-minded people can by no means be admitted to the Parliament. May be, some persons from the opposition, in order to soothe the international community and legitimize Belarusian legislative power in international bodies. That’s why at present the most important task for the authorities is he maximal dilution of the organized democratic structure. NGOs are a competitive net that is being liquidated on political order. Only one figure can remain, no space for political games left. That’s why soon we will receive the news about the new wave of clear-ups.