We will not stop our activities: statement by Human Rights Center “Viasna” concerning a warning by General Prosecutor’s Office
On 16 February 2011, Ales Bialiatski, chair of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” and vice-president of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), received an official warning on the inadmissibility of lawbreaking signed by Deputy Prosecutor General Mr. Kuklis.
The warning argues that Bialiatski’s actions on behalf of the Human Rights Center “Viasna”, which failed to undergo a state registration procedure, violate the legislation of the Republic of Belarus. The human rights defender was officially warned of possible criminal prosecution in case of any further activities.
The Council of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” would like to remind the representatives of the General Prosecutor’s Office that the dissolution of the Public Association Human Rights Center “Viasna” by the Supreme Court of Belarus in October 2003 was considered as a violation of Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by the UN Human Rights Committee. According to the Committee’s decision, the Belarusian government was recommended to secure re-registration of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” and take measures to prevent similar violations in future. Despite the fact that Belarus admitted the authority of the Human Rights Committee and undertook obligations to implement the provisions of the Covenant, the decision has not yet been implemented by the government. Moreover, in 2007-2009, the members of the Human Rights Center “Viasna’ have been three times under various ungrounded pretexts denied the right to register the human rights group.
The Human Rights Center “Viasna” has to state the following: we have been involved in activities within the framework of the Belarusian Constitution and the provisions of the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (Declaration on Human Rights Defenders), adopted by the UN General Assembly’s Resolution # 53/144 on 9 December 1998. Our position concerning Article 193-1 of the Criminal Code, which provides for criminal liability for illegal NGO membership and thus can be applied against Ales Bialiatski, together with other members of the Human Rights Center “Viasna”, is categorical: prohibition of such activities and criminal liability for them run counter to the country’s Constitution and the international legal acts ratified by Belarus, in particular, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The application of Article 193-1 of the Criminal Code is an evidence of Belarus’ outrage against the freedom of associations and remains an object of continuing criticism by a number of influential international organizations, including the OSCE and the UN.
We, the members of the Human Rights Center “Vaisna”, express our strong protest concerning the actions by the General Prosecutor’s Office and consider them as an attempt to intimidate the organization’s activists and the Belarusian human rights movement in general. We believe that our human rights activities are absolutely legal and popular among the Belarusian society, and declare that we will not stop them.
Adopted by the Council of the Human Rights Center “Viasna”
Minsk, 17 February 2011