Another chance for Viasna
On 18 January Minsk hosted the constituent assembly of the public human rights association ‘Nasha Viasna’, co-founded by a number of leading human rights activists, journalists and public figures which had earlier been members of the HR organization Viasna, closed down by the Supreme Court of Belarus in 2003. As a result, Ales Bialiatski, influential human rights expert and FIDH Vice-president, was elected head of the organization.
The closure was followed by numerous attempts to regain state registration; all of them were turned down due to trivial reasons.
In 2007 the UN Human Rights Committee’s decision urged the Belarusian government to re-register the human rights center Viasna, saying that by doing this Article 22(1) of the 1966 UN Covenant on Civil and Political 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’. However, both the Ministry of Justice and the Supreme Court ignored the decision by the Committee.
Shortly after the assembly, Nasha Viasna’s president Ales Bialiatski said: ‘It is another attempt to rejoin the legal community of Belarus, of which we have been deprived for the past 6 years. Considering the complicated situation in the field of human rights in Belarus – political harassment, human rights education, capital punishment, absence of any developed human rights institutes and much more – we are likely to continue our work on the issue. This is what the new association is going to do, both for the sake of our country and the Belarusian civil society. We, on our part, are particularly interested in further cooperation on the above-mentioned issues, both with state bodies and the Belarusian civil society.’