Observatory for Protection of Human Rights Defenders urges Belarusian authorities to re-register 'Viasna' and stop harassment of human rights defeners
for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY
BLR 001 / 0309 / OBS 038 .1
Obstacles to freedom of association
June 8, 2009
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Belarus.
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the new refusal by Belarusian authorities to re-register the Human Rights Centre “Viasna” under the name “Nasha Viasna”. It is the third refusal since the Human Rights Committee issued a communication recommending the re-registration of this organisation.
According to the information received, on May 28, 2009, the Human Rights Centre “Viasna” received a letter from the Belarusian authorities, stating that the latest registration application submitted on April 25, 2009 under the name “Nasha Viasna” had been rejected on May 25, 2009.
The authorities argued, inter alia, through the letter, that “some elements” on several founding members were “distorted”, without stating what was unclear, that some founding members had received administrative sentences in the past, and that criminal cases had been instigated against some of them.
On January 26, 2009, 67 members of the organisation had signed an application to the Ministry of Justice of Belarus to register their human rights organisation under a new name: “Nasha Viasna”. They have had to change the name of their organisation because Belarus legislation forbids the use of the name of a organisation that has been liquidated. On March 3, 2009, members of “Viasna” had been informed by letter of the decision of the Ministry of Justice dated February 26, 2009, to deny their request to register their organisation under the name “Nasha Viasna”.
The co-founders of “Nasha Viasna” subsequently lodged a complaint against this decision, and received a letter from the Supreme Court of Belarus on March, 27, 2009 informing them that their complaint against the refusal to register their NGO had been received, and that the session was due to start on April 7.
On April 22, 2009, the Supreme Court of Belarus rejected the complaint lodged by the co-founders of “Nasha Viasna”. Judge Ihar Milto declared that the decision by the Ministry of Justice was legal, and argued that a series of inaccuracies had occurred in the list of founding members and in the organisation’s charter.
The Observatory expresses its deepest concern about these events and recalls that as a Participating State of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Belarus must conform with paragraph 8 of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Resolution on Strengthening OSCE Engagement with Human Rights Defenders and National Human Rights Institutions, which states that the OSCE Participating States recognise “the need for particular attention, support and protection for human rights defenders by the OSCE, its Institutions and field operations, as well as by participating States”.
Viasna had been registered with the Ministry of Justice since 1999, but was forced to close down in October 2003 by decision of the Supreme Court. On December 24, 2003, Viasna’s appeal lodged against the Supreme Court decision to liquidate the organisation was rejected. Its members were denied the right to pursue legally their human rights activities in Belarus within the framework of their organisation. After they had exhausted all domestic remedies to challenge the Court’s decision, in April 2004, Mr. Aliaksandr Bialiatski, President of Viasna and FIDH Vice-President, lodged a complaint before the United Nations Human Rights Committee.
In July 2007, the UN Human Rights Committee concluded that the dissolution of Viasna was a violation of Article 22, paragraph 1, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and that the co-authors of the complaint were “entitled to an appropriate remedy, including the re-registration of Viasna”. Consequently, the organisation made an new attempt to register, but its application was soon rejected, in violation of Communication No. 1296/2004 of the UN Human Rights Committee.
The Observatory urges the authorities of Belarus to:
i. Put an end to all forms of harassment against the above-mentioned organisation’s activities, repeal the decision to close it down and re-register it, and ensure in all circumstances that its members are able to carry out their work freely without any hindrances;
ii. Put an end to all acts of harassment against human rights defenders in Belarus;
iii. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular with Article 1, which provides that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, Article 5, which provides that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others [...] to form, join and participate in non-governmental organizations, associations or groups”, as well as with Article 12.2, which states that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”;
iv. Comply with the provisions of the Document of the Copenhagen Meeting of the 2nd Conference on the Human Dimension of the Cooperation and Security Conference in Europe (CSCE) (1990), and uphold in all circumstances the principles and provisions enshrined in the international and regional human rights instruments ratified by Belarus and which, in particular, guarantee freedoms of association, demonstration, expression and opinion, in particular the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
v. More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with international and regional human rights instruments ratified by Belarus.
·President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, ul .Karla Marksa, 38, 220016 Minsk, Belarus, Fax: + 375 172 26 06 10 or + 375 172 22 38 72, Email: email@example.com
·Administration of the President of Belarus
·Head of the Administration of the President of Belarus, Mr. Vladimir Vladimirovich Makey, Ul. K. Marksa 34, 220016 Minsk, Fax: + 375 17 226-06-10
·General Prosecutor, Petr Miklashevich, Internatsionalnaya str. 22, 220050 Minsk, Belarus, Fax: + 375 17 226 42 52
·Minister of Justice of Belarus, Mr. Viktor Grigorevich Golovanov, Ul. Kollektornaya, 10, 220004 Minsk, Belarus, Email firstname.lastname@example.org
·President of the Supreme Court of Belarus, Mr. Valentin Olegovich Sukalo, Ul. Lenina, 28, 220030 Minsk, Belarus, Email: email@example.com
·Permanent Mission of Belarus to the United Nations in Geneva, 15 avenue de la paix, 1211 Geneva 20, Switzerland, Fax: +41 22 748 24 51. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
·Embassy of Belarus in Brussels, 192 avenue Molière, 100 Ixelles, Belgium, Fax : + 32 2.340.02.87, Email : email@example.com
Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Belarus in your respective country.
Paris-Geneva, June 8, 2009
Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need. The Observatory was the winner of the 1998 Human Rights Prize of the French Republic.
To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 20 11 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
 See Human Rights Committee Communication n°1296/2004, July 24, 2007.
 Adopted by the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in Kiev on July 10, 2007.