Viasna urges the authorities to stop persecution of civic activists
The Human Rights Centre Viasna urges the Belarusian authorities to stop the practice of intimidation and pressurization of civic activists and immediately decriminalize the activity of unregistered organizations.
During the last two months the Human Rights Centre Viasna noted an increase in the number of official warnings about the inadmissibility of activities on behalf of unregistered organizations, issued by the prosecutor's office and KGB to civic activists and human rights defenders.
On 18 April 2013 Biaroza District Prosecutor's Office issued a warning for actions on behalf of unregistered organization to an activist of the civil campaign "Tell The Truth" Aliaksandr Kuzmin.
On 24 April 2013 the General Prosecutor's Office of the Republic of Belarus issued a written warning about the inadmissibility of activities on behalf of unregistered organization to human rights defender Tamara Siarhei.
On 29 April 2013 an activist of the Belarusian Christian Democracy Party Aleh Aksionau, put on a prophylactic register of the KGB in October 2012 for such activities, was summonsed for a prophylactic talk by the KGB.
All aforementioned people were warned about the possible punishment under Article 193.1 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, which envisages up to 2 years of imprisonment as punishment.
Human Rights Centre Viasna considers it necessary to remind that freedom of association is guaranteed to citizens of Belarus by Article 36 of the Constitution. According to Article 23 of the Constitution, rights and freedoms of individuals can be restricted only in the cases provided by the law – for the interests of the national security, public order, protection of public morals, health, rights and freedoms of other individuals. Article 5 of the Constitution also contains an exhaustive enumeration of the admissible restrictions of the right to association: banned is the creation and activity of the political parties and other civic associations seeking to violently change the state order or propagating war, social, national, religious or racial enmity. From the viewpoint of the constitutional guarantees and the admissible restrictions it is evident that the existence of criminal punishment for the very fact of acting on behalf of an unregistered organization is a violation of freedom of associations, guaranteed by the Constitution.
On 15 October 2011 the European Commission for Democracy by mandate of the Council of Europe (Venice Commission) prepared a conclusion, according to which Article 193.1 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus was found incompatible with the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other international undertakings of the Republic of Belarus.
It's worth reminding that during 2008-2010 the duty officials of the Ministry of Justice and the Presidential Administration of the Republic of Belarus have repeatedly stated the possibility of the abolishment of this article of the Criminal Code.
In the view of the aforesaid the Human Rights Centre Viasna again calls on the Belarusian authorities to stop the practice of the pressurization of civic activists and take measures for the abolishment of Article 193.1 and decriminalization of activities of unregistered organizations.
Article 193.1 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus (illegal organization or participation in the activities of a civic association, religious organization or fund) is punished with a fine, up to 6 months of arrest or up to 2 years of jail.
18 cases of punishment of people under this article have been registered since 2006.
In February 2011 the General Prosecutor's Office of the Republic of Belarus issued a written warning about the inadmissibility of activities on behalf of unregistered organization to the head of the Human Rights Center Viasna Ales Bialiatski.