Belarusian NGOs address Parliament on controversial draft laws
On 19 October, an appeal signed by representatives of 25 NGOs and other non-profit organizations was passed to the Council of the Republic, the Upper Chamber of the Belarusian Parliament.
The appeal expresses deep concern about the proposed amending of a number of key legal acts, including the Criminal Code and the Public Associations Code, as well as the Mass Events Code.
The NGOs express their protest at further criminalization of involvement in mass events, with extremely severe procedures for obtaining permission to stage such events, which may result in more political repressions: from now on, a mere publication of information on a meeting or a picket will be considered as a criminal offence unless a decision on its conduct has been taken.
The possible criminalization of charitable activities will surely reduce the amounts of resources received by Belarus from abroad, says the appeal. Apart from that, there is a risk of prosecution of persons who receive money transfers that are not liable for registration as a foreign aid.
The appeal also stresses the potential ambiguity of treatment of the provisions of the new version of criminal articles on treason against the State, including “provision of other assistance to a foreign state”, which may enable the law enforcement agencies to prosecute anyone who has ties with foreign organizations, journalists, human rights groups. Room for misreading can also be found in a number of other articles proposed for amendment.
The appeal calls upon the members of the Council of the Republic to reject the bills that have been secretly passed by the House of Representatives on 3 October.