Restoration of criminal liability for organizing or participating in the activities of unregistered organizations
We, the union of thirty two democratic youth organizations of Belarus, being created with the purpose of consolidating youth organizations and initiatives of Belarus for representation, promotion and defending common interests, exercising the right to freedoms of association and other constitutional rights, represented by the Governing Body – the Board of “RADA”, make the following statement:
Today, January 22, comes in power the law number 144-3 of January 4 that restores article 193-1 and responsibility for organization and participation in activities of unregistered or liquidated organizations in Criminal Code. The law as well introduces part 7 of Article 24.23 of Administrative violations Code according to which there is an administrative liability for raising funds to reimburse the costs of prosecution for violating the order of organizing and holding mass events.
According to the Article 193-1, the organizers or participants of a political party, other public association, religious organization or foundation, for which there is a compelling decision of the authorized state body on liquidation or suspension of activities can be punished with money fine, arrest or up to 2 years of imprisonment. Such punishment is also provided for the organization of activities or participation in the activities of a political party, other public association, religious organization or foundation, which have not passed the state registration in the prescribed manner.
We consider as a violation of legal norms the use of broad wording in the law 193-1, which makes it possible to bring a wide range of people to justice within the framework of a dysfunctional judicial system. It should be mentioned that in the legal system there are cases of denial of registration for formal reasons. An example is the attempt to register the Viasna human rights centre, which has been denied registration several times.
We consider this law as another instrument of pressure on the civil society of Belarus and an attempt by the state to stop the activities of people in organizations who are the bearers of rights and freedoms, thus hoping for demoralization and oppression of the whole society. This position of the state towards the civil sector as a whole confirms doubts about the competence of decision-makers. We recall that the civil sector is one of the key elements of interaction between government and the people, the main initiator of social progress. In the conditions of a non-functioning state, the civil sector is able to respond to problems and solve them quickly.
In this regard, we:
- Condemn the adoption of the law on the introduction of criminal liability for the organization or participation in the activities of unregistered or liquidated organizations, and consider it a direct violation of the right to freedom of association.
- Call for the repeal of legislative changes that come in power with Law 144-3 of January 4.
- Call for the facilitation of discussions with partners and governments at the international level in order to develop ideas for reforming the legislative framework to protect the space for civil society in Belarus.
- Encourage our member organizations to share with each other best practices of supporting civil society organizations facing restrictive environments in Belarus.
- Call upon democratic governments and international organizations, including the United Nations, international financial institutions and relevant multilateral and regional organizations, to support Belarusian NGOs and encourage the Belarusian government to comply with international law.