On 22 February representatives of six opposition parties met with the Deputy Justice Minister.
On 22 February representatives of six opposition parties met with the Deputy Justice Minister Aleh Krautsou. Party representatives spoke of the problems the parties with legal addresses in residential buildings had been facing.
The meeting with the Deputy Justice Minister Aleh Krautsou was attended by representatives of the BPF Party, United Civil Party, the Party of Communists, the Belarusian Social Democratic Hramada, Popular Hramada and Women's Party Hope. All of these parties recently received warnings issued by the Justice Ministry because many of the regional structures of the parties have their legal addresses in residential buildings. According to the Justice Ministry requirement, all of the registered party structures should have found premises in non-residential buildings.
The opposition leaders said to the Deputy Minister that the Justice Ministry requirement is not legal and cannot be fulfilled. Because the party structures were registered in residential buildings according to the then effective legislation, and laws do not have a retroactive force. According to the party representatives, the Justice Ministry regulation cannot be fulfilled for yet another reason: none of the owners of office buildings want to lease rooms to the party structures at reduced prices that the parties have the legal right to. All the more so that local officials often prevent oppositionists from renting rooms.
One of the meeting participants, the BPF Party leader Vintsuk Viachorka said to a Radio Liberty correspondent, "I noted that the invitation to take part in the meeting after the warning was issued does not mean the Justice Ministry wants to establish dialog and cooperation with us. It only shows the desire to adopt a hard line. So, the question is whether the Justice Ministry is really there to make sure laws are observed."
Representatives of the parties also said that the Justice Ministry should not be a penal agency and has to cooperate with structures of civil community in a normal way. Aleh Krautsou agreed with the arguments. He suggested the parties develop proposals on resolving the situation with the party structures and pass them over to the Justice Ministry. But the party representatives have little hope the authorities will stop pressure on them.