HRH Network against freedom of association abuses in the Belarusian legislation
HRH Network has joined the campaign “No to Article 193.1!” The campaign is headed by the NGO Assembly and its goal is to force cancellation of the article 193.1 of the Belarusian Criminal Code.
Friday, 03 July 2009, by Belarusian HRH
More than 30 organisations associated with HRH Network called upon the Belarusian authorities to cancel certain parts of the Criminal Code, which prescribe criminal responsibility for activities of unregistered NGOs. Also they demand exclusion of penalties for participating in unregistered NGOs from all Belarusian legislative acts.
Parts of the article 193 bear criminal responsibility for participating in unregistered civic organisation. In its turn, this article violates the right of association and hampers the development of the civic society in Belarus. Nevertheless, the right of association is supported by numerous international agreements, which Belarus has signed. In its address to the Belarusian authorities HRH Network members refer to freedoms guaranteed by Universal Human Rights Declaration and International Covenant on Political and Civic Rights; according to these international documents every human has the right to associate. HRH Network members are concerned that the article 193.1 contradicts to rights and freedoms prescribed by the international law.
In 2005 the Belarusian CC was amended, thus, effectively legalizing criminal persecutions of unregistered NGOs. According to part 1 of the article 193 one can be penalized up to 2 years in jail for activities of unregistered civic and religious organizations, funds, and initiatives.
In early June this year the Assembly of Pro-Democratic NGOs started the campaign “No to Article 193.1!” According to the Human Rights Center Viasna, website the NGO Assembly is trying to draw attention to the fact that from 2005 to 2009 17 members of NGOs were jailed precisely with the help of the article 193.1. Hundreds of others were questioned by the authorities. Many of them were issued official warnings, which demanded to cease all activities in unregistered NGOs.
The PACE and European Parliament resolutions adopted in 2008 recommend aborting the article 193.1. The Belarusian authorities left these recommendations without a notice.
Valiantsin Stefanovich of Human Rights Centre Viasna says, “For us the implementation of this article is of the great importance since it does not need any prove of a wrongdoing. Any NGO member could potentially be criminally responsible”.
Alongside with HRH Network several other organizations, such as Front Line, HRC Viasna, Young Democrats, Young Front, Young Belarus and others, joined the “STOP Article 193.1!” campaign.