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Statement No.10 “On the recent legislative initiatives in the Republic of Belarus which limit civil society activities”

Acting on behalf of the Committee on International Control over the Situation with Human Rights in Belarus (CIC), which brings together representatives of national and international civil society organizations and networks from the OSCE countries;
monitoring the overall situation with the observance of fundamental human rights in the Republic of Belarus, including issues of the freedom of association and compliance with the conditions for the unhindered activities of human rights defenders;
emphasizing that human rights are subject of direct and legitimate concern of international civil society;
urging the Belarusian authorities to follow the undertaken international obligations on human rights;
expressing its solidarity with the civil society and human rights organizations in Belarus, which for many months continue to operate under permanent pressure from the authorities,

the International Observation Mission:

1. Expresses its deep concern about the adoption by the House of Representatives on October 3, 2011 and approval by the Council of the Republic of the National Assembly on October 21, 2011 of the draft laws “On amending the law ‘On mass events in the Republic of Belarus’”, “On amending certain laws of the Republic of Belarus” (in particular, the laws “On political parties” and “On public associations”, the Criminal Code and the Code on Administrative Offences), as well as introduction of the draft law “On amending the law of the Republic of Belarus ‘On state security bodies in the Republic of Belarus’”.
2. Shares the opinions and evaluations of these draft laws presented in the joint statement by several Belarusian human rights organizations of October 13, 2011 (published: http://spring96.org/en/news/46526) and in the “Analytical note on the Amendments Initiated to be Introduced into the Legislation of the Republic of Belarus” of October 17, 2011 (published: http://belhelcom.org/en/node/14434).
3. States that introduction of these legal norms will not facilitate ensuring real security of the Belarusian citizens and is aimed solely at protecting the interests of certain acting authorities. These norms are not only dangerous for the activities of Belarusian civil society organizations, but also create additional obstacles carrying out monitoring of the human rights situation in Belarus by international observers, which contradicts the obligations in the sphere of human rights and human dimension of the security taken over by Belarus.
4. Once again reminds that human rights issues are subject to the direct and legitimate concern for all OSCE participating States and international civil society and do not belong to the internal affairs of a state.
5. Notes that these legislative initiatives are contrary to the official statements by the representatives of the Republic of Belarus at the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting recently held in Warsaw that they comply with their international obligations on human rights and the rule of law.
6. Believes that the introduction of such legislative initiatives, including, inter alia, stricter penalties for receiving foreign funding for civil society activities, against the background of the criminal prosecution of the chairman of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” Ales Bialiatski and deputy chairman of the Center Valentin Stefanovich, on the cases related to receiving such funding directly confirms the political motivation of these cases.
7. Regards these initiatives in line with the general tendency to limit the operational space of the civil society in Belarus, which leads to complete marginalization and criminalization of independent civil society activities.

In connection with the mentioned above, the International Observation Mission requires:

1. From the Constitutional Court and President of the Republic of Belarus:
- to take measures proposed in the joint statement by several Belarusian human rights organizations of October 13, 2011 (published: http://spring96.org/en/news/46526) to prevent these laws from entering into force;

2. From the Council of Ministers and the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus:
- while drafting and considering the draft laws affecting the issues of implementation of the universally recognized human rights and freedoms in the Republic of Belarus to discuss them with representatives of the civil society and to consult intergovernmental organizations to which Belarus is a member (primarily the UN and the OSCE), as well as to request their expert examination by the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission);

3. From the OSCE participating States:
- to consider at the forthcoming meeting of the OSCE Ministerial Council in Vilnius the issue of suspending the membership of the Republic of Belarus in the organization until it returns to cooperation with the OSCE institutions on human dimension issues and implements the recommendations of the “Moscow mechanism” final report (published: http://www.osce.org/odihr/78705).

October 21st, 2011

Head of the Mission
Andrey Yurov

News of Belarus

Tough sentences announced to Brest antifascists

A verdict was delivered today in the case of Brest antifascists acused of participation in a group fight with neonazis which happened on May 8, 2013.

Antifascists were tried under the art. 339.3 (malicious group hooliganism) and 147.2 (malicious bodily harm). The case was qualified as malicious due to the fact of pepper spray usage in the fight.

Dzmitry Stsyashenka got 5 years of penal colony with reinforced regime (339.3) and 500 euro of damages to be paid to the injured nazis.

Exclusive: European Union moves to suspend sanctions on Belarus

The European Union is likely to lift some sanctions on Belarus, including its travel ban on President Alexander Lukashenko, after he freed a group of political prisoners last month, diplomatic sources say.

An arms embargo against the former Soviet republic would remain. But in an overture to the man the West calls Europe's "last dictator", diplomats are looking at suspending visa bans and asset freezes on most of around 200 people under sanctions for rights abuses, some since disputed elections in 2004.