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Viasna has been recognized as an "extremist formation": how to cooperate with us now?

2023 2023-09-05T14:47:30+0300 2023-09-05T14:47:30+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

On August 23, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Belarus decided to recognize the human rights center Viasna as an extremist formation. This creates grounds for bringing to criminal responsibility the citizens who are involved in the activities of Viasna or transfer any information or resources to its representatives.

Let's discuss the current issues of cooperation with the human rights center after the recognition of it as an extremist formation.

What Viasna resources in particular are now part of the extremist formation?

The "list of organizations, formations, individual entrepreneurs involved in extremist activities" includes and, Telegram channels, pages on Viasna social media, common Telegram accounts and emails for communication with human rights defenders, Patreon, photobank, as well as personal mail and Telegram accounts — there are about a hundred positions in total. The list also includes a page on the website of the International Human Rights Organization which contains information about Viasna. 

Authorities label Viasna/Human rights in Belarus “extremist formation”

On August 24, about a hundred information resources and online accounts related to Viasna were recognized as an “extremist formation”.

What are the threats for those who cooperate with Viasna?

Persons who "participate in the activities of the organization or carry out any transfer of information or funds to the representatives of Viasna" are recognized as members of an extremist formation or persons who assist it and may be prosecuted under Article 361-1 (Creation and management of an extremist formation) and Article 361-4 (Promotion of extremist activity) of the Criminal Code of Belarus. The sentences prescribed by these articles provide for punishment related to restriction or deprivation of liberty, but taking into account the practice of Belarusian courts, the authorities choose the second option. It turns out that any cooperation with the human rights center implies a threat of criminal liability. But for more than three years we have been well aware of the potential danger of cooperation with Viasna and are taking all possible measures to ensure that the roles of those who are not public representatives of Viasna, including our numerous volunteers, remain invisible to everyone, first of all to the Belarusian state. 

What is threatening Viasna team?

Everyone who cooperates with Viasna has been under threat of arbitrary persecution by the Belarusian authorities for a long time. At first, the resources of the human rights center were recognized as "extremist materials“, but now the entire Viasna is also considered an extremist formation. So there appeared a formal reason to prosecute, first of all, those who lead Viasna and its structural units, according to Article 361-1 of the Criminal Code.

People in Belarus should also take precautions when volunteering at the human rights center. For its part, Viasna will also take an even more responsible attitude to keeping all facts and contacts safe.

What can happen to those who provide information to Viasna?

As for people who want to support the human rights activities of Viasna, they should be prepared that they may be accused of facilitating extremist activities (Articles 361-4 of the Criminal Code). This includes people who gave interviews to human rights defenders and reported of human rights violations.

People located within Belarus are at risk, so they should transmit information through their close people located outside Belarus. People who want to continue to cooperate with Viasna from Belarus always have a way to more or less safely transmit information to Viasna representatives, who are known to be Viasna representatives, protecting themselves from provocateurs.

The human rights center collects information not only for publication, although the dissemination of information about human rights violations is a very important thing. In addition, we document and store information about repressions in Belarus, so if you want to provide information for these purposes, and not for public dissemination, note this when communicating with Viasna representatives.

As for the financial support of Viasna with donations, we do not insist on material support. But if you do this, act in the safest possible ways and when you are outside Belarus. It is safe to donate only from foreign cards that were not issued in Belarus or Russia. When donating via an online platform, we advise you to adhere to the following rules:

— use a VPN (for example, access to Patreon in Belarus is impossible without it);

— register an account on Patreon using a foreign SIM card and not your main email address, use an anonymous browser tab so that no information about this activity remains in history;

— do not store the login and password from Patreon in browsers and password managers where the security forces will be able to see them.

Is reading Viasna risky?

Our information resources became the first victims of the isolation policy back in 2011: the authorities restricted access to Viasna's website with technical measures; in 2021 they recognized its information sources as “extremist materials”. Administrative legislation provides for the responsibility for the distribution of these materials; the information that you receive from Viasna cannot be reposted while you are in Belarus. But as for simple reading, this is not yet punished, although it is advisable to keep the evidence that a person visits the website of Viasna or reads some information from other Viasna sources out of the access of special services.

Is it safe to receive any help from Viasna?

This does not entail legal responsibility. Formally, it was always possible to receive help from Viasna, and the only issue was that changes were made to the legislation prohibiting receiving reimbursement of fines for violating the legislation on peaceful assemblies.

However, it is worth noting that assistance in writing a complaint, for example, can be perceived as providing information to an extremist formation. Those who are in Belarus and at risk should be careful and, after contacting the sources indicated in the decision of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, destroy traces of these contacts.

We are not the only human rights organization: despite the repression, many Belarusian human rights organizations continue to fight for human rights and freedoms, and new initiatives have emerged alongside those which appeared in the 90s. The Belarusian human rights environment is united and has the same values. Therefore, you can also use their help or help them in the fight for human rights. 

The authorities are trying to make us build a wall with our own hands, so that the human rights violations they commit cannot be seen behind it, so that no one sees the faces of repression and hears their voices. Therefore, even if at all risks you are ready to help us or other human rights defenders to make holes in it, together we will overcome this.

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