"Viasna": 10 years without registration
Human rights defender Uladzimir Labkovich remembers well October 28, 2003, when the Supreme Court put an end to the registration of "Viasna". How is it that the decision put an end to the activities of the human rights defenders? Uladzimir Labkovich says there was no heroism, they tried to follow the law in challenging the decision, and then get a new registration, “We appealed the decision, which was passed by Judge Valiantsina Kulik, to the Supreme Court, but it was upheld. We filed a complaint with the UN Human Rights Committee, which decided that our rights should be restored, as the dissolution of "Viasna" was not consistent with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This decision was received by the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but they were never going to implement it and stated that the court's decision took effect and it was the only legitimate one. After that, we tried three more times to restore the registration of "Viasna", submitted documents for registration to the Ministry of Justice, but we were refused three times on absolutely ridiculous grounds. That's when we decided and announced that we would no longer apply for registration of "Viasna", as it was evident that the refusal was unlawful, and would continue our public activities transparently. And so we are working without registration."
Uladzimir Labkovich admits that it is much harder to without legal status, but that's, as it turned out, was not the main thing. For example, protecting the interests of specific individuals, human rights activists are writing to government agencies on their own behalf and so do their work. Answers from government agencies come even to the unregistered "Viasna", “They do. We received answers from the Investigative Committee and from other agencies. But this is still an exception. Part of the current regime in Belarus is categorically negative towards human rights, and human rights defenders are like enemies. But in this situation, the work of human rights defenders is even more important. After all, we are a group of people, a team that protects people from the government that does not recognize any of their rights."
In 2011, the Viasna team received a hard blow: on charges of concealing income from abroad Viasna chairman Ales Bialiatski was sentenced to for 4.5 years in prison. He has been held in a penal colony for more than two years. The release of Bialiatski, as well as other political prisoners, is the most fundamental requirement from human rights groups and the opposition. Did Ales Bialiatski’s arrest intimidate other human rights defenders? Former police captain Andrei Paluda joined “Viasna” and is now responsible for the civil campaign "Human Rights Defenders against the Death Penalty". Recently, the Supreme Court of Belarus for the first time in many years overturned a death sentence and sent the case back for reconsideration. Is there any contribution to this from the human rights defenders?
“There is certain contribution from human rights activists, lawyers, and just caring people. There are awareness-raising campaigns about this issue, which we do through the campaign against the death penalty. And finally, if there had been no appeal, there would have been no reversal,” says Andrei Paluda.
Andrei Paluda says about his work in “Viasna” that, despite the threat of repression, he feels that he belongs here and works with pleasure.
Today “Viasna” is one of the most influential in the country and the world-renowned Belarusian human rights organizations. It helps political prisoners and victims of political repression, monitors and reports through its website on the situation with the arrests of activists, monitors violations of human rights, is engaged in human rights education. A lot of attention is paid to the joint campaign with the BHC "Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections", which includes monitoring of elections taking place in Belarus.
Nasta Loika works in the legal advice office of "Viasna”, as well as during trials of activists. Nasta came to the organization in the spring of 2010 and has become a respected human rights defender. My question to the girl is why she is doing this activity?
"For me, it is very important. I see that people are in such crisis situations, as we have in Belarus, it is important not to remain alone in need. To know that there are people who are willing to come and help," says she.