30 January – Opening Day of Belarusian Human Rights House in Vilnius
The establishment of the Belarusian Human Rights House in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, was started in 2002 by one Norwegian and eight Belarusian human rights organizations. In 2006 the house received official registration in the Republic of Lithuania.
Its opening there can be explained by practical impossibility of open human rights activity in Belarus. None of the NGOs that have been established during the last 9 years have been registered by the state. It is prohibited to NGOs to receive and use financial aid from the abroad. One of punishments for it is a long-term imprisonment.
In Belarus it is almost impossible to hold human rights seminars, conferences and other measures as long as they are stopped by the police and KGB, their participants being punished with warnings, arrests, etc.
Numerous searches at NGOs’ offices and activists’ personal accommodations lead to confiscation of documents and informational carriers – the subject of human rights activity. In many cases it is very hard to recover confiscated materials.
The Belarusian authorities try to limit contacts of Belarusian human rights activists with their foreign colleagues. Many important activists of the international human rights movement are banned entrance to Belarus, which impedes consultations, education, exchange of experience and information and other kinds of cooperation.
The abovementioned facts witness that it becomes more and more difficult to continue defense of human rights on the system level in Belarus. Human rights activity becomes more and more scattered, thus becoming far less effective than coordinated activity of the international community on both national and international levels.
The present situation of Belarus doesn’t allow for activity of Human Rights House on its territory, which lead to the idea of functional extension instead.
Thus, HRH is intended to:
- create conditions for holding different human rights events (seminars, trainings, conferences, schools, etc.) both for member organizations and other human rights organizations and activists;
- increase the security of Belarusian human rights activists, materials and documents that are at risk in Belarus;
- make each of the member organizations of the HRH more noticeable for and accessible to the international community.
The human rights community of Lithuania can use the house as a mediator for cooperation in the field of human rights and the Foreign Ministry of Lithuania has already expressed its interest in support of seminars and educational programs planned for 2007.
The HRH in Lithuania can serve as an office for different kinds of meetings including meetings for ‘public diplomacy’, development of contacts and exchange of opinions, knowledge and information.
Such meetings will foster distribution of information about Human Rights, the European Union, its principles and the European program New Neighbors and about new possibilities for development by means of mutually profitable cooperation.