The Implementation of Freedom of Association in 2009
The Implementation of Freedom of Association in 2009
In 2009 the situation in the sphere of freedom of association in Belarus failed to undergo significant changes, the main problems in the formation and activities of public associations remaining unaltered. The practice of denying registration to public associations and political parties on dubious grounds including the socio-political stand of the associations’ founders was continued. A ban on the activities of unregistered public associations, foundations, political parties and religious organizations was kept in force resulting in criminal penalties for such activities (Article 193-1 of the Criminal Code, ‘Illegal organization of a public association, religious organization or foundation or participation in their activities’ . Many of the registered NGOs and party structures were challenged with obtaining a legal address in non-residential premises (conditions for non-governmental associations and parties in this respect are worse than for some forms of business organizations, which may be registered at the private apartments of their founders), and the impossibility of unpermitted renting of premises for meetings. It was still complicated to receive foreign grants and domestic sponsorship for non-governmental organizations.
The registration of several independent NGOs (especially the movement ‘For Freedom’) and the local offices of some parties in late 2008 and early 2009 raised hopes for a liberalization of the registration procedures, but these hopes were not realized in practice.
In 2009 registration was refused to three parties - the Party of the Belarusian Christian Democracy (twice), the Belarusian Party of Workers (the successor of the Belarusian Party of Labour, closed down in 2004) and the Party of Freedom and Progress (fourth failure since 2004). In fact, not a single political party has been registered in Belarus since 2000. Refusals were also encountered by some local offices of already registered parties (e.g., the BPF).
The methods of registering bodies in respect of independent associations has not changed either and it were primarily youth and human rights organizations that were refused registration. In 2009, the public human rights association ‘Nasha Viasna’ was twice refused registration, four times - the human rights association ‘Brest Viasna’, the Assembly of Pro-democratic NGOs, the youth public association ‘Young Social Democrats’, the youth public association ‘Modes’ (Mahiliou), the public association ‘Youth Christian Social Union’, the public cultural and educational association ‘Heritage’ (Hrodna), the youth public associations ‘Novy kurs’ (Minsk ), the cultural and educational public association ‘Gold Lion’ (Slonim), and others. In most cases the refusals to register were legally ungrounded and clearly caused by the political will of the authorities to prevent the legal existence of these NGOs. Courts failed to meet any of the complaints against decisions of the Ministry of Justice and its departments to deny registration.
The current legislation allows to use arbitrary registration denials. In 2009, the authorities made statements on the possible simplification of the registration of parties and public associations by amending the laws ‘On political parties’ and ‘On public associations’. The state-owned media announced that the registration of new associations would be simplified, in particular, associations would not allegedly have to present all the necessary documents for registration. However, the analysis of the proposed changes raised serious doubts that this law was really aimed at improving the registration of new associations and simplification of the procedure. In reality, the changes were aimed at legalizing the existing forms of unreasonable refusals of registration, they considerably expand the list of legal grounds for refusing registration: registration may now be refused due to the incompliance of the organizations’ charter with the legislative requirements, not only in terms of goals, objectives, methods, areas of activity, but in any other provisions of the charter.
The proposed changes would also render meaningless the concept of ‘correcting deficiencies’ in the documents submitted for registration. In general, the sounded changes are aimed at bringing legislation in accordance with the existing practice of issuing arbitrary denials of registration due to trivial reasons to the associations, the legalization of which is undesirable for the authorities. Other minor changes to the law are extremely technical in nature, they cannot even be regarded as being aimed at simplifying the registration procedure. For example, the initiative groups are required to submit a digital version of the association’s charter in addition to the paper variant. This provision of the bill is likely to cause the actual re-registration of the existing associations, as the digital versions of their charters had not been previously submitted. Some of the denials issued in spring 2009 were in fact already implementing the pending bill. This includes expanding the legal grounds for refusal, as well as the use in respect of the Belarusian Christian Democracy the procedure of ‘the suspension of the decision on refusal of state registration’, which is not provided by the current version of the law.
Apart from public associations, some of the non-governmental organizations that function in the form of institutions have to undergo registration as commercial organizations, which was introduced in early 2008, and improved by Presidential Decree number 1 of 16 January 2009. In 2009, the organizational and legal form of an institution became extremely popular among non-profit organizations that could not register in the usual forms of a public association or a foundation. In particular, it is in the form of an institution (which, however, cannot be called an association due to its organizational structure) that the youth organization ‘Right-Wing Alliance’ and the youth center ‘Modes’ (they, as well as some other organizations, had been refused registration)were allowed to function legally. However, in the autumn of 2009 there were recorded instances when opponents of the authorities were refused registration in this organizational form as well (which is not provided by law and is a flagrant violation of the declared registration procedures). In late 2009 it became known that the President had initiated drafting of a bill ‘On non-profit organizations’, which could potentially complicate the registration and operation of those forms of non-governmental organizations that do not fall under the currently existing special legal acts and are therefore registered under the so-called notification system.
In comparison with previous years, the total number of registered organizations has not changed. According to the Ministry of Justice, in 2009 there were only 94 new public associations (including 3 international, 16 national and 75 local ones) and 8 new foundations (including one international foundation). Statistics show that the judiciary annually registers the number of public associations, which can compensate for their reduction as a result of voluntary liquidations or through forced judicial decisions.
The mechanism of suppression of freedom of association in Belarus and the oppression of non-governmental organizations was most clearly demonstrated by the failure to register the public human rights association ‘Nasha Viasna’. On 26 January, 2009 application for registration of the association was submitted to the Ministry of Justice; the NGO’s founders included human rights defenders, journalists and public figures from across the country that used to be members of the Human Rights Center ‘Viasna’ (closed down by the Supreme Court in October 2003). In 2007, the human rights activists tried to legalize their activities, but the Ministry of Justice and later the Supreme Court refused to register the association, despite the decision of the UN Human Rights Committee, stating that the dissolution of the HRC ‘Viasna’ was a violation of the right to freedom of association, and the Belarusian authorities had been urged to correct the situation.
On 11 March (i.e., in violation of one month’s period for consideration of the registration application) the official website of the Ministry of Justice announced ‘the refusal of state registration to the public human rights association ‘Nasha Viasna’. On 19 March a complaint against the decision of the Ministry of Justice to refuse state registration was lodged with the Supreme Court, but the judge failed to take into account the arguments of the founders of the association and upheld the Ministry’s decision. On 12 March the Helsinki Committees of Sweden, Norway, Netherlands, Moscow and Belarus called upon the Belarusian authorities to review the decision to refuse registration to ‘Nasha Viasna’. In their opinion, the reasons for non-registration of the organization presented by the Ministry of Justice were unfounded. Their appeal also noted that ‘the establishment of a free environment for the legitimate activities of human rights groups would testify mean that Belarus was ready to create space for the civil society and actual steps aimed at improving the human rights situation.’
There was another unsuccessful attempt to obtain registration made by the founders of the association ‘Nasha Viasna’ in 2009. On 28 May the human rights defenders received a decision by the Ministry of Justice refusing registration to the public human rights association ‘Nasha Viasna’. The reasons for the refusal were as follows: involvement of the founders in civil and criminal prosecutions (the reason not provided by law) and technical inaccuracies in the submitted application (e.g. some of the founders failed to state their fixed location phone numbers). On 12 August the Supreme Court dismissed the complaint lodged by the founders of the PHRA ‘Nasha Viasna’ against the refusal of the Ministry of Justice to grant the state registration to the association. It was a third attempt to legalize the activities of the association over the past two years that ended in failure despite the fact that the arguments provided by the officials of the Ministry of Justice were unfounded and false. As a result, the human rights defenders decided to stop seeking registration and instead to address the UN Human Rights Committee with a complaint against systemic discrimination of the right to freedom of association.
Technical fault-finding was also the formal grounds for repeated failures in the registration of the Public Human Rights Association ‘Brest Viasna’, which during 2009 was three times refused registration as a separate local association. The founders of ‘Brest Spring’ corrected the inaccuracies stated in the refusal decisions, but the following attempts to register were opposed by the institutions of justice who found more and more grounds for another refusal.
In the spring of 2009 the Ministry of Justice refused registration to the Assembly of Pro-democratic NGOs, which was regarded as a politically motivated decision by the founders of the association (this was the second failure this union associations). The Ministry of Justice based its decision on violations of the NGO foundation procedures, allegedly committed by the Assembly. In particular, it was argued that the foundational agreement was invalid because the leaders of the founding organizations signed it without the consent of the governing bodies of these associations. In fact, the excuse is lame, since the agreement on the establishment of the Assembly was signed by heads of the founding organizations only after they had been authorized at the meeting of each organization. Also, the Ministry claimed that the name did not meet the requirements of legislation, because it did not indicate the sphere of activities of its members. The founders of the Assembly of NGOs were 7 associations, including the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, the ‘Supolnasts’ Center, the BPF ‘Adradzhenne’, the Human Rights Center and three other public organizations of Verkhniadzvinsk, Vitsebsk and Mahiliou. On 4 June the Supreme Court of Belarus dismissed a complaint by the founders of the Assembly of NGOs against the Ministry of Justice. In December 2009 the founders of the Assembly held another founding congress and applied for registration in early January 2010.
For many organizations, which faced refusals of registration, the main obstacle to their legal existence were the persons considered as political opponents by the authorities. The trend affected organizations of different kinds. For example, in November, the Department of Justice of Hrodna regional executive committee refused registration to the Slonim-based cultural and educational public association ‘Zalaty Leu’ (‘Golden Lion’), the founders of which had previously been members of another non-governmental organization - Slonim youth association ‘Vetraz’ (‘Sail’) (a few years ago, the organization was closed down by a court decision). One of the initiators of the association Ales Masiuk is confident: ‘The authorities continue a policy of non-registration of persons, which they have labeled as belonging to the opposition. We could have corrected all the shortcomings of the Charter within a day, and they just decided to ban us.’ On 29 December Hrodna Regional Court considered the complaint by the Slonim activists against the regional justice department and upheld the decision.
According to the founders of the Biarozauka-based public cultural and educational association ‘Spadchyna’ (‘Heritage’), it was the reluctance of the authorities to see another legitimate democratic organization in the national legal field that became the basis for refusing registration to the association, a decision passed by the Department of Justice of Hrodna regional executive committee on 25 June. The official cause was the alleged non-compliance of the organization’s registration application with the current legislation. ‘Spadchyna’ members tried to appeal the decision in court, but Hrodno Regional Court and later the Supreme Court rejected the claim.
Official registration continued to be inaccessible to independent youth organizations. On 2 July the Supreme Court of Belarus upheld the decision of the Ministry of Justice to refuse registration to the public association the Youth Christian Social Union ‘Young Democrats’. In this case there were no substantial grounds for the refusal of registration, and the identified discrepancies in the application (errors in the addresses of some of the organization’s founders) could have been easily corrected. On 19 March a ruling by the justice department of Mahiliou regional executive committee refused registration to the public association the Center of Youth Initiatives ‘Modes’. The refusal was grounded on certain violations of the law, which had allegedly been made in the Charter of the association. The refusal was later confirmed by decisions of a number of courts of various levels (‘Modes’ was eventually registered in the form of an institution).
In 2009, decisions were taken in the cases concerning the refusals to register two national public associations. In the case of the Center for Chernobyl Initiatives Support, the Ministry of Justice recognized the invalidity of its former statement on forgery of the founders’ signatures, after it had been refuted by repeated graphologic examinations, and registered the association, without awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision (in this case there apparently was a kind of agreement between the officials and founders of the association, who were summoned to the Ministry and questioned about their planned activities). In the other case of the Social-Patriotic Public Association ‘Haryzantal’ ‘Horizontal’, despite the fact that the examination did not confirm signature forgery of one of the organization’s founders, the association was refused registration by the Supreme Court on 11 March.
On 15 April the Belarusian Christian Democracy leaders received a reply from the Ministry of Justice, notifying the applicants of the refusal to register the party. The reason was the alleged discrepancies of the application with the questioning of the founders, conducted by the Ministry. The founding congress of the party took place in late February; after the filing of documents for registration almost every founder was phoned by representatives of local ideological departments, the KGB and the police. Some were invited for conversation by their employers and under the threat of dismissal required to renounce their membership. The examination of the BCD application was carried out by Deputy Minister of Justice of Belarus Aleh Slizheuski, the official who eventually signed the negative reply received by the Christian Democrats. However, the next day, 16 April, one of the co-chairs of the BCD Aliaksei Shein was phoned by a representative of the Ministry of Justice and told that the decision on non-registration of the party had been suspended. The official reason was the great number of appeals by the founders of the BCD, the receipt of information that influenced the decision on state registration of the party. The final decision was made after verifying the information received and also was negative - the Ministry decided not to register the BCD. On 22 July the Supreme Court rejected the claim of the party against the decision by the Ministry of Justice to refuse registration (this decision was made by Judge Valery Samaliuk). The BCD co-chair Aliaksei Shein called the reasons for the refusal of state registration politically-motivated ones. In 2009 the BCD leaders re-filed application for registration, which was dismissed again. On 9 December the Ministry of Justice again refused the registration to the Belarusian Christian Democracy. The reason was the alleged inaccuracies in the information about the regional meetings of the founders. According to co-chair of the party Vital Rymasheuski, again there were dozens of cases when the founders of the BCD were summoned and threatened by the ideological departments of local executive committees or administrations of educational institutions, employers etc. As a result of this pressure, five people were forced to withdraw their signatures.
On 15 June the Ministry of Justice for the fourth time in the few past years refused to register the Party of Freedom and Progress on the grounds that ‘the Congress records contained conflicting information’ (in particular, the Ministry of Justice saw irregularities in the nomination of delegates), as well as the claims that ‘there was invalid information on the list of the founders’. This refusal was also confirmed by the Supreme Court.
On 15 December the Supreme Court rejected the claim of the founders of the Belarusian Party of Workers against the refusal to register the party. Chairman of the organizing committee of the party Aliaksandr Bukhvostau pointed to the facts of the founders’ intimidation when they were required to withdraw their signatures in the application. He also said that the founders were going to continue to work as an organizing committee for the establishment of the party and will arrange a new Congress.
In late March Hrodna Regional Executive Committee refused to register the Hrodna offices of the BPF Party and the Public Association BPF ‘Adradzhenne’. This refusal was confirmed, and during its appeal at the Supreme Court, despite the fact that it was justified solely by illegal arguments about the non-compliance of font types in the submitted application with documentation requirements.
In 2009, the government continued to apply Article 193-1 of the Criminal Code as a means of intimidation of civil activists in order to force them to stop their activities in unregistered NGOs. In August, an activist of the Brest office of the Young Front youth movement, Mikhail Ilyin was threatened with criminal responsibility by the local prosecutor’s office in case he did not stop his membership in the unregistered organization. Another prosecutor’s warning was issued to the leader of Brest office of the Young Front Yulia Pashko in December 2009.
On 19 February the prosecutor's office issued a warning of possible criminal prosecution under Article 193-1 of the Criminal Code to chair of the Baranavichy office of the Union of Poles in Belarus Teresa Selivonchyk, ahead of the Congress of that part of the association, which is not recognized by the authorities, and it was the first time that the authorities decided to use the infamous Article against the members of the Polish minority association. At the same time, undisguised pressure was exerted on the Union activists forcing them to abandon their membership in the association across the country: people were invited for conversations to the KGB, the Interior Ministry or the prosecutor's office, where they were openly told about the possibility of criminal prosecution.
In May 2009 for the first time since April 2008 a conviction under Article 193-1 of the Criminal Code was passed, but the punishment was not imposed in connection with the amnesty. The case against Andrei Nestsiarovich (Homel) was instituted back in 2007, when activists of the pro-Russia neo-Fascist organization RNE were prosecuted under Article 193-1 (since then Aliaksandr Nestsiarovich had been hiding in Russia, but returned to Belarus, having the announced amnesty in mind).
In June, the prosecutor's office in Minsk opened a criminal case under Article 193-1 of the Criminal Code against the 25-year-old resident of the capital Yauhen Volkau, representative of the unregistered ‘Unification Movement’ (Moon’s Church). The investigation was soon terminated, but in December 2009 it was re-opened. It should be noted that it is the first criminal case against a representative of an unregistered religious organization since 2006, when the provisions of Article 193-1 took legal effect.
In total, in 2006-2009 the human rights defenders were reported about 17 persons convicted under Article 193-1 for activities on behalf of unregistered associations: 2006 - 6 convicts; 2007 - 9 convicted; 2008 - 1 conviction; 2009 - 1 conviction. No acquittals were reported by the human rights activists.
In early September, the reply of the Ministry of Justice to a request by the non-governmental organization ‘Civil Belarus’ (Czech Republic) stated that the authorities were considering the possibility of replacing criminal liability for the activities on behalf of unregistered associations with civil charges. This was the first signal that the authorities admitted the possibility of revising Article 193-1 and reducing responsibility, but no practical steps in this direction were reported until the end of the year. In fact, in the case it was neither the lifting of the ban on the activities of unregistered organizations nor the revocation of Article 193-1 of the Criminal Code that were being considered, but only the reduction of liability for such actions. The intention to correct the responsibility for the activities of unregistered associations was stated by representatives of the Ministry of Justice (including during the annual Human Dimension Implementation Meeting of the OSCE) and the Presidential Administration. However, no real steps towards the revision of Article 193-1 of the Criminal Code were taken, and no bill was submitted to the Parliament.
During the year, the Ministry of Justice continued the practice of issuing written warnings to public associations. On 6 January a warning was issued to the Republican Public Association ‘Belarusian PEN-Center’. The warning was based on the results of the inspection of the public association’s activities, despite the six-month moratorium on inspections, declared by the authorities in late 2008. The organization was accused of the absence of a legal address, despite the existing rental contract, and violations of documentation requirements, unauthorized correspondence via e-mail, as well as improper protection of its members (in connection with the statements of protest released by the organization regarding the seizure of the Arche magazine at the Belarusian-Polish customs as an alleged extremist publication).
In February, Homel Regional Department of Justice issued a warning to the youth public organization of local history studies ‘Talaka’, active in the region for more than ten years. The order by the Department’s Head of Vital Makarevich says that the written warning was issued for the use of unregistered symbols on the organization's website and in advertisements, distributed by ‘Talaka’ in the regional center.
A major obstacle to the creation of new associations and registered NGOs and party offices was the need to have an office and a registered legal address in non-residential buildings, since local authorities still practiced pressure on landlords who dared enter into such contracts. The legal environment for NGOs and political parties is even worse than the conditions for commercial organizations that may be registered at the private apartments of the founders. Meanwhile, a large number of suitable premises for NGO activities are state-owned and have unreasonably high rental rates. During 2009 many organizations reported difficulties with payment of administrative offices, and in some cases this was used as a formal ground for termination of their activities.
In early February, the Public Association ‘For European Masty District’ (the town of Masty, Hrodna region) failed to find a legal address in an administrative building, which became an insurmountable obstacle for the registration of associations. Masty Regional Executive Committee refused the association’s founder Ales Zarembiuk in providing a legal address for the registration of the public organization, referring to a lack of vacant premises.
In more than 30 cities and towns of Belarus the local Young Front activists applied to the local executive committees for providing a legal address and premises for holding a constituent assembly, necessary for the registration of the association’s local offices; however, all the applications were rejected, e.g. in February, Mazyr town authorities (Homel region) refused to assist in finding a legal address to the Young Front local office activists, referring to the prohibition of the law to interfere in the activities of public organizations.
In April the Barysau office of the public association ‘Children in Need’ was forced to cease its activities because of the inability to pay rent for communal property premises. The numerous appeals submitted by the charitable organizations to the local executive authorities pleading for subsidized rental rates were unsuccessful.
On 18 February the Society for the Protection of Monuments was forced to leave the premises in the center of Minsk, occupied by the organization for more than twenty years. The building was restored in the 1980's at the cost of the association and legally belonged to it. In 2004, the state nationalized the building, turning the former investor into a renter, and in late 2008 finally evicted the Society. Chairman of the organization Anton Astapovich is sure that the hastiness of the eviction was due primarily to the association’s activities aimed at revealing and disseminating the information on violations of legislation for the protection of historical and cultural heritage and its firm stance in the matter.
The civil society continued to experience problems with the rental of premises, not only for daily activities and as a necessary legal address in non-residential premises, but also for special events or meetings.
The founders of the BCD Party faced numerous difficulties in finding premises in Minsk for holding a constituent assembly, scheduled for February 28: ten owners of premises of the necessary roominess rejected their applications (negative responses were received from the IBB International Education Center, the Youth Variety Theater, the ‘Aurora’ and ‘Tsentralny’ cinemas, the Central House of Officers, the palaces of culture of the Belarusian Railroad, MAZ, MTZ, ‘Sukno’ and the Palace of the Republic). After the founders expressed their intention to hold a constituent assembly under the open sky in the center of Minsk, the premises for the Congress was allocated. However, the local authorities in the regions continued to interfere in the conduct of local assemblies of the party’s members for the election of delegates to the Congress (in total, 63 meetings for the nomination of delegates were held during the preparation for the congress).
The administration of the Minsk-based International Educational Center IBB agreed to provide premises for a large forum of public associations - the sixth Assembly of Non-Governmental Organizations and Initiatives (6-7March). However, as in the case of the BCD, the preparatory activities prior to this meeting in regions were accompanied with numerous difficulties. Specifically, Homel regional executive committee failed to issue permission to hold a meeting of the social organizations and initiatives of the region. The meeting was scheduled to be held in the House of Children and Youth Arts ‘Yunatstva’ (‘Youth’), and a preliminary oral agreement with the director of the House had been reached. The House belongs to the department of culture of the regional executive committee, therefore, to obtain an official permission to organize the event in this facility, deputy chairman of Homel city office of the Belarusian Republican Association ‘Legal Initiative’ Uladzimir Katsora had to apply to deputy chairman of the executive committee’s ideology department Mr. Kirychenka. Mr. Katsora was later phoned by the House director and told that the premises were not for rent due to unknown reasons.
The organizing committee members of the 5th Congress of Belarusians of the World arranged by the World Association of Belarusians ‘Batskaushchyna’ (‘Fatherland’) and held on 18-19 July also had difficulties in finding premises for the event, but in the end they were granted with the consent of Minsk city executive committee.
At the same time, many registered associations, as well as groups for creation of new associations, experienced difficulties in finding premises roomy enough to house meetings. The Public Human Rights Association ‘Nasha Viasna’ had difficulties in finding premises for another constituent assembly in late April: nearly all the organizations addressed by the founders of ‘Nasha Viasna’ with a request to provide premises for a constituent assembly turned down the activists’ applications. As a result of this, the founders of the association were forced to hold a constituent meeting at the BPF office.
The Belarusian authorities failed to comply with the decisions of the UN Human Rights Committee, which condemned the refusals of registration and dissolutions of Belarusian public associations as violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. At this point, the Committee has passed three decisions regarding violations of freedom of association by the Belarusian government: the refusal to register the human rights association ‘Helsinki – XXI’; the juridical dissolution of the Homel Regional Public Association ‘Civil Initiatives’; the juridical dissolution of the Public Association ‘Human Rights Center Viasna’. Numerous attempts to enforce the Committee's decisions through appeals at national courts and other authorities were unsuccessful, and the organizations continue to work in the form of unregistered associations, running the risk of being prosecuted for such activities.
On 23 March Minsk regional court of cassation rejected the complaint lodged by members of the Homel Regional Public Association ‘Civil Initiatives’ (closed down in 2003) against a number of actions by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The association's members argued that, in accordance with the decision of the UN Human Rights Committee, the dissolution of their association by the Belarusian government was a violation of freedom of association; however, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as the authority responsible for fulfilling international commitments of Belarus , failed to take any actions to restore their violated rights.
In April 2009, Ales Bialiatski, human rights activist and chairman of the Public Association ‘Human Rights Center Viasna’ (closed down in 2003), received a response to his appeal to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where he had sought clarification as to what steps had been taken by the Ministry to implement the UN Human Rights Committee's Views in connection with the cancellation of the organization’s registration. The response, signed by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, reported that the Belarusian side considered the decision by the UN Human Rights Committee as a recommendation, which had no binding character. Thus, the Belarusian side confirmed that it was not going to implement the Committee’s decisions on human rights violations in Belarus.
Another major factor that resulted in a number of steps towards the liberalization of non-governmental associations’ activities taken by the authorities, was the dialogue between Belarus and EU. It was its impact that caused relative relaxation of the state policy in certain directions, e.g. the abandonment of the wide-scale use of Article 193-1 of the Criminal Code. But in general, since February 2009, when an extension of the suspension of sanctions against Belarusian officials was announced by the EU, there have been no irreversible changes for the better in the field of freedom of association: Article 193-1 has not been abolished, there has been no new political party registered since then and the procedures of registration of public associations have not been simplified.
The Belarusian authorities should take a number of prompt measures to remedy the difficult situation with freedom of association in Belarus: the abolition of Article 193-1 of the Criminal Code and the revocation of all legislative bans on the activities of unregistered associations, the actual simplification of procedures for registration of public associations at least to a level currently used for registration of commercial organizations, and such simplification should be confirmed by the registration of those associations and parties that had previously been refused registration or that were closed down by judicial decisions. For the Belarusian authorities, it is of especial importance to implement the decisions by the UN Human Rights Committee concerning the violation of freedom of association by forced dissolutions and non-registration of public associations.