The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (a joint program of FIDH and OMCT) Press Release - Publication of a Report
The «liquidation» of the independent civil society
Release of an international mission of judicial observation report
Paris – Geneva, April 22, 2004 - The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of FIDH and OMCT, released a report of an international mission of judicial observation that took place from October 19 to 26, 2003 in Belarus. The mission was sent to observe the trial against the NGO «Viasna», and more generally to investigate the situation of the right to freedom of association in Belarus.
Since 2001, the authorities in Belarus have increased their control over civil society, a situation which reached its height in 2003, with the adoption of legal reforms restricting freedom of association. This situation has led to increasing difficulties for associations to register and operate, as well as an increase in the number of NGOs that authorities have closed down.
Among these legal changes, a presidential decree, adopted in April 2003, limits the right of associations to represent persons at civil trials in general courts to those cases authorized by law. Another decree, adopted in November 2003, provides drastic measures to control foreign aid granted to associations. Such aid can no longer be used to prepare and carry out events of a political and social nature.
At the same time, in 2003, authorities have increasingly used new restrictive legislation to initiate judicial procedures against NGOs. In January 2004, the Belarus minister of Justice confirmed that 51 associations had been shut down during 2003. Among them, Viasna, one of the most active human rights associations in Belarus, was shut down on October 27 2003, following a legal proceeding instituted by the ministry of Justice before the Supreme Court.
The deterioration of the situation of human rights in Belarus, described in this report has just been examine by the UN Commission for Human Rights, which, during its 60th session, adopted a resolution creating a Special Rapporteur to examine the situation of Human Rights in Belarus and to report on it during the next session of the Commission.
The Observatory, which presented its report on Belarus to the UN Commission on Human Rights, welcomes this resolution and offers its support and assistance to this new mechanism.
The report is available in English and French on the websites of FIDH (http://www.fidh.org/IMG/pdf/Bel388a.pdf) and OMCT (www.omct.org).
For more information, please contact :
FIDH: 00 33 1 43 55 25 18
OMCT: 00 41 22 809 49 24