We strongly protest against the ongoing campaign to put pressure on and persecute civil society organizations, leaders and activists of organizations and initiatives in Belarus. Since the beginning of the year, dozens of NGO offices and the apartments of activists have been raided in Belarus. In recent days, the authorities have taken steps to close numerous down civil society organizations. In particular, it is known that the oldest Belarusian organizations, PEN Belarus and the Belarusian Association of Journalists, are in the process of being wound up. In just a few days, the authorities have ordered the dissolution of at least forty non-profit organizations. The vast majority of these NGOs are being closed down without any claims from the supervisory authorities, without prior notice and in the absence of the opportunity to challenge the decisions.
Most of the organizations had partnerships with both government agencies and international institutions. Many organizations have worked within the framework of sustainable development programs at the national and local levels, made significant contributions to the development of Belarusian society, provided legal and other assistance to people, helped the state highlight the problems of vulnerable groups and solve them.
This campaign is obviously aimed at the complete demolition of the country’s third sector, the total destruction of any civic activity, and the suppression of any initiative.
Such actions are a flagrant violation of the international obligations of the Republic of Belarus in the field of freedom of association and expression.
As noted in the OSCE / ODIHR Guidelines on Freedom of Association, “freedom of association is a human right, crucial to the functioning of a democracy, as well as an essential prerequisite for other fundamental freedoms.” Furthermore, associations often play an important and positive role in achieving goals that are in the public interest.
We demand to put an end to the campaign aimed to destroy Belarusian civil society, to intimidate and persecute activists, and to suppress freedom of expression.
We call on international organizations to publicly express their assessment of the authorities’ actions, to use all possible means to influence the situation, and to continue to provide support to Belarusian civil society organizations.
Belarusian Helsinki Committee
Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House
Human Rights Center “Viasna”
Belarusian Documentation Center