BHC Successful in Action against Tax Inspectors
Belarusian Helsinki Committee has won the case against Maskowski borough tax inspectorate in Minsk. The court ruled to cancel the Inspectorate’s decision to collect over USD 70,000 of taxes and fines from BHC. Meanwhile, the criminal charges against BHC leaders have not been dropped, reports RFE/RL.
Judge Aksana Mikhniuk of Minsk Economic Court allowed the BHC claim against Maskowski tax inspectorate of Minsk. The judge cancelled all taxes and fines BHC was to pay in the mind of tax inspectors. Besides that, the Belarusian Helsinki Committee was able to recover 190,000 BYR (USD 90) of litigation fees.
In the beginning of 2004 Minsk Maskowski borough tax inspectorate decided, BHC had failed to pay taxes from TACIS grant. The tax inspectors counted, the amount of unpaid taxes was almost 100 million BYR, and imposed penalties of additional 50 million BYR. The BHC leaders claimed the human rights organization was not due to pay taxes under the international agreements between Belarus and the EU. The tax inspectors were of a different opinion. Till the very last day of the hearing the tax inspectorate representatives stated the human rights defenders were to be punished for failing to meet all the registration requirements of the grant.
BHC chairperson Tatsiana Protska made no secret of her satisfaction with the court verdict. However, she points out, till the very last minute she did not exclude the reverse, having no illusions about independence of courts in Belarus.
Protska: “In our country the Law and the Constitution are not the solid foundation to win a court case on. Unfortunately. In this case, I believe, the law was on our side. But the rule of law won only because of the support of the international community”.
Many of influential international organizations have expressed their support for BHC. The statements have been coming out till the very last day. Today attached to the case was the letter by head of EU Council of Ministers, prime-minister of Ireland, who directly called the actions against BHC persecution of one of the last human rights organizations in Belarus. The statement of special UN experts and other letters were read out during the hearing. BHC representatives make no secret of their gratitude to everybody who has supported them.
What will be the fate of the criminal charges against BHC leadership? According to Tatsiana Protska, the case has been only suspended.
“Earlier the investigator told me the verdict of economic court would mean nothing to him”, -- says Protska. Still, she hopes the criminal charges will be dropped.
Representative of Maskowski borough tax inspectorate did not answer the question, whether they would appeal against Judge Aksana Mikhniuk verdict to the Supreme Economic court.