Belarus fails in democracy test

The Belarusian authorities refuse to register the human rights organisation Nasja Viasna. This shows clearly that the Belarusian regime has failed an important test of their will to democratize the country, says Robert Hårdh, Secretary General of the Swedish Helsinki Committee.

We believe that this is a matter of discrimination for political reasons. We are being systematically prevented from exercising our freedom of organisation, says Valiantsin Stefanovitj, vice president of the human rights organisation Viasna, which has tried to register the new organisation Nasja Viasna.

The Swedish Helsinki Committee agrees with the analysis of Viasna. The reasons for refusing registration presented by the Ministry of Justice are not trustworthy. Among other, the Ministry questioned if the constituent assembly for Nasja Viasna was ever held, since the room where it was said to have been held was claimed to be too small for 60 people. Another reason was that the organisation, according to the Ministry of Justice, has a hidden agenda, because they in their statutes mention one goal “to defend human rights” while they in the protocoll from the constituent assembly talk about “goals”; in plural.

Viasna is the best and most professional human rights organisation in the country. The organisation has been forced to work illegally since the authorities revoked their registration in 2003. The UN Human Rights Committee established that the closure of Viasna was a crime against article 22 in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and that the organisation has a right to compensation and re-registering.

iasna decided to try again to register the organisation in the name Nasja Viasna following a decision from the EU in October 2008 to lift a travel ban for 40 belarusian state officials, including the dictator Aleksander Lukasjenka, for six months. In return the EU expected an increased respect for human rights in Belarus.

The decision not to register Nasja Viasna shows clearly that one cannot talk about progress in the field of human rights in Belarus. I’m afraid this is one of many events that points in the same direction, says Robert Hårdh, Secretary General of the Swedish Helsinki Committee.

In the last month, members of the opposition have been arrested and a peaceful demonstration in central Minsk has been dispersed by force. Viasna’s human rights defenders work under constant threat, since activities in an un-registered organisation is punishable by jail for up to two years. Viasna plans to appeal against the decision of the Ministry of Justice. There is little hope that their vioce will be heard by the politically ruled justice system, but they do not intend to give up.

We will continue our activities in any case, says Valiantsin Stefanovitj emphatically.

On February 23 2009 the Swedish Helsinki Committee sent a letter to the First Deputy Head of Administration of the President, the Minister of Justice, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs urging them to ensure that Viasna recieves an official registration. You can read the letter below.

Categories: News.
Tags: Human Rights Defenders, Valiantsin Stefanovich, and Viasna.
Regions: Belarus.