Revocation of Article 193-1 still open-ended
Article 193-1 of the Criminal Code may be decriminalized in the near future, says Mr. Huminski, head of the Standing Commission for National Security of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus, in reply to a complaint by Brest human rights lawyer Uladzimir Malei. The official says that ‘the terms of decriminalization of certain criminal offences, including Article 193-1, are currently being considered’, i.e. some rules of criminal law may be transferred to the Civil Code.
‘In other words, I was told that the House of Representatives would soon be considering decriminalization of the Article, instead of its annulment. That is, the liability will become civil. We can expect huge fines for illegal NGO membership, which is appalling. So I am going to enclose the response with my complaint to the Constitutional Court and, as a citizen, I intend to request that the Court consider the issue of the Article’s non-compliance with the Belarusian Constitution,’ says Mr. Malei. Belarusian human rights activists stress that the reduction of liability to a civil offence will not help solve the problem. Viasna’s lawyer Valiantsin Stefanovich says that the Article fails to meet both the Constitution and the international legal acts ratified by Belarus.
‘The Human Rights Center Viasna, together with other Belarusian human rights NGOs, believe that Article 193-1 neither meets the Constitution of Belarus, nor the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. As for its ‘transfer’ to the sphere of the civil law, it should be noted that civil liability for illegal membership will not help solve the issue. The ban should be unconditionally lifted, since the Constitution clearly specifies the range of admissible restrictions for the exercise of the freedom of association in Belarus. It states that ‘the creation and activities of political parties and other public associations that aim to change the constitutional system by force, or conduct a propaganda of war, social, ethnic, religious and racial hatred, shall be prohibited.’ says Mr. Stefanovich.
The official reply from the Parliament received by Mr. Malei also says that ‘there has emerged a need for generalization of judicial and investigatory practice, as well as for the elaboration of proposals for the improvement of this type of legislation.’
‘We have no information about a bill to amend the Criminal and Civil Codes and repeal Article 193-1. Therefore, the issue of the revocation of the Article is still open-ended.’ says Valiantsin Stefanovich.