Amnesty International Activists from the UK Support "Viasna"

2004 2004-04-28T10:00:00+0300 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

Dear President Lukashenka

I write as a member of Amnesty International over the case against Viasna-96.

Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign to prevent and end grave abuses of the rights to physical and mental integrity, freedom of conscience and expression, and freedom from discrimination, within the context of its work to promote respect for all human rights.

On 28 October 2003 the Supreme Court ruled to close down Spring-96, one of Belarus' most prominent human rights organization, as a further attempt to suppress what remained of the country's human rights community. Court proceedings had started against Spring-96 in September 2003, when the organization received a court summons by the Supreme Court in which the organization was threatened with closure on the basis of charges filed by the Ministry of Justice.

As in the case of several other human rights NGOs, the court ruled that Spring-96 had violated several provisions of a highly controversial law which tightly regulates the activities of civil society. In one instance, the court reportedly ruled that in rendering legal assistance to individuals who were not members of the human rights organization, Spring-96 had violated the law.

Spring-96 informed Amnesty International in September 2003 that it was of the opinion that its persecution by the authorities was in connection with its public activities (monitoring of human rights, support to victims of political repression, monitoring during the elections). The organization considers the closure of human rights and other NGOs a planned campaign by the authorities, aimed at removal of active public organizations from civil society.

Amnesty International is concerned that the closures of the NGOs, referred to above, are in violation of international human rights law and standards. The rights of freedom of association and peaceful assembly are enshrined in Articles 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Belarus is a state party. These rights are also enshrined in the United Nations (UN) Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, otherwise known as the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

We respectfully call on the Belarusian authorities to:

· stop the deliberate pattern of obstruction, harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders, by closures, and threats thereof, of several NGOs, including Legal Assistance to the Population, Spring-96 and the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, directly and indirectly engaged in the promotion and defence of human rights in Belarus;

· immediately review laws, regulations and administrative practices relating to the registration and activities of non-governmental organizations in order that their establishment and free operation may be facilitated in accordance with Articles 21 & 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

· adhere to the principles of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, 9 December 1998).

Yours Sincerely

(Mr) Cecil Ballantine
Pound Farm
Church Lane
Rudford
Gloucester GL2 8DT
United Kingdom

Dear President Lukashenka

Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign to prevent and end grave abuses of the rights to physical and mental integrity, freedom of conscience and expression, and freedom from discrimination, within the context of its work to promote respect for all human rights.

On 28 October 2003 the Supreme Court ruled to close down Spring-96, one of Belarus’ most prominent human rights organization, as a further attempt to suppress what remained of the country’s human rights community. Court proceedings had started against Spring-96 in September 2003, when the organization received a court summons by the Supreme Court in which the organization was threatened with closure on the basis of charges filed by the Ministry of Justice.

As in the case of several other human rights NGOs, the court ruled that Spring-96 had violated several provisions of a highly controversial law which tightly regulates the activities of civil society. In one instance, the court reportedly ruled that in rendering legal assistance to individuals who were not members of the human rights organization, Spring-96 had violated the law.

Spring-96 informed Amnesty International in September 2003 that it was of the opinion that its persecution by the authorities was in connection with its public activities (monitoring of human rights, support to victims of political repression, monitoring during the elections). The organization considers the closure of human rights and other NGOs a planned campaign by the authorities, aimed at removal of active public organizations from civil society.

Amnesty International is concerned that the closures of the NGOs, referred to above, are in violation of international human rights law and standards. The rights of freedom of association and peaceful assembly are enshrined in Articles 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Belarus is a state party. These rights are also enshrined in the United Nations (UN) Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, otherwise known as the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

We respectfully call on the Belarusian authorities to:

· stop the deliberate pattern of obstruction, harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders, by closures, and threats thereof, of several NGOs, including Legal Assistance to the Population, Spring-96 and the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, directly and indirectly engaged in the promotion and defence of human rights in Belarus;

· immediately review laws, regulations and administrative practices relating to the registration and activities of non-governmental organizations in order that their establishment and free operation may be facilitated in accordance with Articles 21 & 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

· adhere to the principles of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, 9 December 1998).

I have notified relevant UK parliamentarians and MEPs of our concerns on these issues.

Yours Sincerely

Graham Jones

9 Scott Road

Sheffield S4 &BE

United Kingdom

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