A new edition of the law on public associations has been adopted by the Chamber of Representatives
On 29 June the Chamber of Representatives adopted the Law "On Changes and Additions to the Law of the Republic of Belarus "On Public Associations". The draft project should be considered in the Council of the Republic and will come in force after it is signed by the president and published, reports the NGO Assembly.
The main part of the changes and additions to the law concern reinforcement of by-laws and practices that have already existed in the Belarusian law (presidential decrees, documents approved by the Ministry of Justice). However, the new edition also provides for a number of new grounds that can be used to liquidate public associations. For example, the public association may be suspended following violation of the law committed. Earlier, this measure did not exist.
The law increases the possibilities of the state interference with the activity of associations, broadens the list of monitoring agencies and areas where public associations will be monitored. At the same time the law does not provide for possibility of cooperation between the government and public associations. For example, it does not contain social order provisions that exist in all neighboring countries.
The new edition stipulates that all public associations will have to file with the registration authority a complete report on its activity every year. A new article is added, which provides for up to six months of suspension of public organizations following a court ruling. Business activity may be performed only through specially created designated commercial structures.
Some of the crucial loopholes of the Belarusian legislation on NGOs have not been eliminated by the new law. Thus, the law does not regulate the activity of the Committee for registration (re-registration) of public associations and political parties, whose conclusions are required before a public association can be registered.
Yury Chavusau, coordinator for a system of collective defense of Belarusian NGOs, comments on the adoption of the new edition of the law: "Now it is too early to say how the new provisions will affect the Belarusian third sector. I see it as a great danger that as a result public associations will be required to go through re-registration again. Because, the new edition of the law places some new demands on the contents of the mission statements of public associations (the mission has to include "the subject of activity", a procedure for registration of the organization's members, etc.). Judging from the text available, I can say that a number of restrictions on the right of assembly contained in the new edition of the law do not meet international standards of human rights – first of all, this concerns the ban on the activity of unregistered associations of people, interference of the government into the activity of associations and restrictions imposed on the activity of organizations".