International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights and Belarusian Helsinki Committee Issued a Joint Statement Urging the Authorities to Drop Charges against BHC Head and Accountant and Stop “State Campaign Against Human Rights Activists”

2004 2004-03-23T10:00:00+0200 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

“We call upon the authorities to drop these charges and to stop the state campaign against human rights activists that itself violates international human rights law,” stated Aaron Rhodes, Executive Director of the IHF.

The IHF and the Belarus Helsinki Committee believe there is a direct connection between the criminal case against the Committee and its activities. These include: general monitoring of the human rights situation in Belarus; election observation; legal assistance to relatives of civil society leaders, who disappeared long ago (Zakharenka, Hanchar, Krasouski, and Zavadski); defense of prisoners of conscience (Prof. Bandazheuski); and legal defense of journalists charged with libel against the President. The Committee has also prepared a report for the 60th session of the UN Human Rights Commission.

The IHF and the Belarus Helsinki Committee appeal to the Belarus authorities to adhere to the values and standards of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and stop the repression of civil society and persecution of human rights defenders.

Further you can read the full text of the statement:

The Criminal Case Against the Belarus Helsinki Committee
is Politically Motivated and Should Be Dropped

Statement by the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights
and the Belarus Helsinki Committee

Vienna and Minsk, 22 March 2004 The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) and the Belarus Helsinki Committee (BHC) believe that criminal charges filed by the government against the Belarus Helsinki Committee are legally baseless and are an attempt to silence the organization, which is a leading source of independent, accurate analysis concerning compliance by the government with its international human rights commitments.

“We call upon the authorities to drop these charges and to stop the state campaign against human rights activists that itself violates international human rights law,” stated Aaron Rhodes, Executive Director of the IHF.

On 17 March 2004, an investigator of the Belarus government’s Financial Investigation Department brought criminal charges against “officials” of the Committee based on an investigation conducted by tax inspectors of the Minsk Moscow District between August 2003 and January 2004. The inspectors had checked the Committee’s entire financial history from the day it was founded in 1995.

The Department of Finance claims that the Committee owes the state over 385,000,000 Belarus Rubles (approx. $180,000) in unpaid taxes and fines for alleged unlawful use of project funds received under the European Union’s TACIS Technical Assistance Programme. The Committee is charged with violating Presidential Decree No. 8, art. 12 “On Receipt and Use of Foreign Financial Assistance”, and namely with “omission to register foreign financial assistance…”

The IHF and the Belarus Helsinki Committee note that in fact Decree No. 8 does not apply to international technical assistance, such as the TACIS Programme. Assistance under this program is exempt from taxation according to the general rules agreed upon by Belarus and the European Union in the “Memorandum on Financing” on 10 May 1994.

While the Committee appealed the decision of the Tax Authority, the Department of Financial Investigation brought criminal charges against “officials of the Committee” according to Article 243 part 2 of the Criminal Code, consideration of which could impede a settlement in the Civil Court and may even lead to the arrest of Committee’s officials, closure of the Committee’s bank account, and confiscation of property.

The IHF and the Belarus Helsinki Committee believe there is a direct connection between the criminal case against the Committee and its activities. These include: general monitoring of the human rights situation in Belarus; election observation; legal assistance to relatives of civil society leaders, who disappeared long ago (Zakharenka, Hanchar, Krasouski, and Zavadski); defense of prisoners of conscience (Prof. Bandazheuski); and legal defense of journalists charged with libel against the President. The Committee has also prepared a report for the 60th session of the UN Human Rights Commission.

The IHF and the Belarus Helsinki Committee appeal to the Belarus authorities to adhere to the values and standards of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and stop the repression of civil society and persecution of human rights defenders.

For more information:

Aaron Rhodes, IHF Executive Director: +43 676 6356612
Tatyana Pratsko, President of the BHC: +375 17 2224800
Vladimir Weissman, IHF Consultant: +45 43692045

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