Human rights defenders cannot be prohibited to implement their duties

2009 2009-06-04T18:21:47+0300 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

On 3 June in Minsk there was held the joint press-conference of the founders of the CHRA Nasha Viasna and the Assembly of Pro-democratic NGOs dedicated to non-registration of both associations by the Ministry of Justice.

The founders of the CHRA Nasha Viasna Ales Bialiatski (vice-president of the International Federation for Human Rights) and Valiantsin Stefanovich, the head of the working group of the Assembly of Pro-democratic NGOs Siarhei Matskevich and the expert in political science Yury Chavusau took part in the press-conference.

Valiantsin Stefanovich reminded journalists that on 25 May the Ministry of Justice decided to deny registration to the civil human rights association Nasha Viasna and characterized this decision as non-motivated. For instance, in its letter to the founders the ministry states that there are incorrect and distorted data, but there are no details. It is also stated that the second part of the name of Nasha Viasna does not correspond to the organization charter. It is also very strange because this name has been used for the second time and the Ministry of Justice didn’t have any pretensions to it during the previous registration attempt.

The Ministry of Justice also states that ‘we allegedly counteracted to the check-up of documents that were passed for registration, though we have passed all necessary papers to the ministry. Even the stated reason for the check-up is unfounded. The Ministry of Justice refers to some websites where it was allegedly written that during the constituent assembly some ‘program of the association’ was adopted. The journalists could just call a program our aims and tasks. There’s no problem here. Should we bear any responsibility for all information that appears on websites? Meanwhile, the law On civil associations does not oblige us to answer the ministry’s inquiries and it cannot serve as a reason for registration denial. The check-up of the legal address looked doubtful as well. For unknown reasons it was performed not by the ministry, but by Minsk city executive committee, and it was done in the oral form. They just called the owner of the premises on the phone. The ministry also mentioned other reasons that are hardly explainable, such as that a guarantee letter for provision of legal address cannot be considered as a document or that some of the founders have received administrative punishments. Valiantsin Stefanovich believes that it is done on purpose, in order to discredit human rights defenders in the eyes of the Belarusian society.

‘It was our last attempt to get registered. We are not going to file any documents any more. The verdict of the Ministry of Justice will be appealed against at the Supreme Court. Then we will file a complaint to the UN Human Rights Committee against all three registration denials, as it is not only a violation of Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, but also systematic discrimination of us as citizens.

Ales Bialiatski also has no illusions concerning the registration of CHRA Nasha Viasna. He confessed that he would like to tell the officials of the Ministry of Justice and those who are behind them. ‘The organization is denied registration for the third time already. At the same time, in 2004 the Human Rights Center Viasna became a member of the International Federation for Human Rights and has received prestigious international awards. That’s why the position of the authorities is completely incomprehensible, because such actions take place against the background of declarative talks about improvement of relations with the European Union, one of the conditions for which is the improvement of the situation of human rights in the country. How can it be made without registration of civil organizations and associations? For instance, in Armenia that has the population of 2.5 million people there are 6 000 registered civil organizations, which is ten times more than in Belarus. That’s why it seems to me that non-registration of Nasha Viasna has political implication,’ commented Mr. Bialiatski.

The expert in political sciences Yury Chavusau characterized the situation with registration of civil associations in the country. In particular, he drew attention to the fact that the Chamber of Reprsentatives of the National Assembly has started consideration of the draft law on introduction of amendments and supplements to some laws of the Republic of Belarus concerning the administrative procedures. BELTA has already informed that this draft law was aimed at simplification of the procedure of registration of civil associations. However, Mr. Chavusau came to the conclusion that it was just simplification of the procedure of registration denials. The list of the legal reasons for not registering civil associations is extended. ‘This draft law is aimed at legalization of the repressive practices, used by the Ministry of Justice towards the organizations that the state does not want to register. For instance, as it happens in situation with Nasha Viasna,’ he commented.

‘The registration denials to the Assembly of Pro-democratic NGOs and Nasha Viasna not only violate our right to association, but are also aggravated by Article #193.1 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus that provides punishment for activities on behalf of unregistered organizations. Assembly struggled for the abolishment of this article earlier, and today it starts a campaign for abolishment of Article 193.1,’ stated the representative of the Asembly of Pro-democratic NGOs Siarhei Matskevich.

During the press conference Valiantsin Stefanovich voiced the position of the founders of the civil human rights association Nasha Viasna Ales Bialiatski, Uladzimir Labkovich and Valiantsin Stefanovich: ‘We officially state that we have acted and will act on behalf of the unregistered organization Human Rights Center Viasna. We are ready to any reaction of the authorities to our statement. Naturally, we would welcome any steps of the authorities aimed at abolishment of the outrageous Article #193.1 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, because we are sure that it violates the country’s constitution and does not correspond to the international human rights standards and to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in particular.’