International Organizations Support Viasna
24 October 2007
Following the Human Rights Center “Viasna’s” participation in observing the 2001 presidential elections, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Belarus cancelled the organisation’s registration. Hence, from autumn 2003, “Viasna” was forcibly closed.
The closure of “Viasna” was part of a campaign against NGOs, conducted in 2003 by Belarusian authorities. During that time, the Belarusian authorities liquidated more than 300 NGOs out of the approximately 2.000 active in the country
In 2004, the former President of “Viasna”, Ales Bialiatski, presented documentation concerning the forced closure to the UN Human Rights Committee. In August 2007 the Committee concluded that the forced closure of “Viasna” violates Article 22(1) of the 1966 UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on freedom of association. Following the view of the Committee, the former staff of “Viasna” presented registration documents to the Ministry of Justice in summer 2007.
When the Ministry of Justice refused to re-register “Viasna” in August 2007, the Belarusian authorities directly violated their obligations to follow the decision of the UN Human Rights Committee issued on July 24, 2007 regarding the closure of “Viasna”. In its conclusion, the UN Committee found that the rights on freedom of association had been violated and considered that the co-authors of the complaint were “entitled to an appropriate remedy, including the re-registration of “Viasna”, and that Belarus was “under an obligation to take steps to prevent similar violations occurring in the future” (§9).
The Supreme Court must take into consideration the international obligations of the Belarusian state and adopt the conclusion of the UN Human Rights Committee. The refusal to re-register “Viasna” is only one example of Belarusian authorities’ attitude towards freedom of association. Members of the Human Rights House Network hereby express their deep concern regarding freedom of association in Belarus. They urge for the decision to be withdrawn and for “Viasna” to be registered as a legal, independent human rights organisation, a status it is entitled to under international law.
Human Rights House Foundation
Norwegian Helsinki Committee
Helsinki Committee in Poland,
Polish Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights
The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Index on Censorship