Belarus
12.10.12
Urgent Interventions

Arbitrary closure of the NGO Platforma

URGENT APPEAL -THE OBSERVATORY

BLR 003 / 1012 / OBS 093

Arbitrary closure

Belarus

October 12, 2012

TheObservatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme ofthe International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World OrganisationAgainst Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgentintervention in the following situation in Belarus.

Description of the situation:

TheObservatory has been informed by reliable sources about the liquidation andclosure of Platforma, a human rights organisation specialised in the protectionof prisoners’ rights.

According to the information received, on October 9,2012, the Minsk economic court decided to close down Platforma. The decisionfollows a claim of the Tax Office of Minsk's Savestki district that theorganisation had allegedly failed to lodge the tax return on time, and toinform it about a change of address. However, it appears that those claims aregroundless, as Platforma did indeed lodge the tax return on time, but the TaxOffice of Minsk reportedly lost the document. Representatives of theorganisation announced that they would appeal against the court decision.

It is to be noted that Platforma has been repeatedlyharassed by the authorities over the past months. For instance, on June 26,2012, the Minsk Prosecutor's Office warned Mr. Andrei Bandarenka, Headof Platforma, that he was “discrediting the Republic of Belarus and itsgovernmental bodies”. These warnings took place after Platforma urged the internationalIce Hockey Federation not to hold the 2014 World Championship in Minsk as longas the country held political prisoners and used repression against humanrights defenders, journalists and civil society activists. A few days earlier, on June 18, 2012,Platforma had published a report on human rights abuses in detention centresand correctional institutions in Belarus.

In addition, on July 19, 2012, the KGB informed Mr.Bandarenka that it had registered his name for alleged draft evasion and thathe might face foreign travel restrictions under President Lukashenko's recentDecree No. 295. The Minsk Tsentralny District Court eventually dismissed thecase on July 20, after Mr. Bandarenka lodged a complaint against the travelban. The Interior Ministry's Immigration and Citizenship Departmentacknowledged that there had been a mistake and removed him from the travel banlist.

On July 26, 2012, the authorities finally warnedPlatforma that the organisation would be closed down for alleged failure to complywith tax requirements. The Tax Office of Minsk Savestki district filed a claimbut the hearing, initially scheduled on September 6, 2012, was finallypostponed to October 9, 2012.

The Observatory notes that, like the vast majority ofNGOs in Belarus, Platforma has never been able to obtain official registrationin order to operate legally. This situation raises fears that, if it continuesto carry out its human rights activities, its members might face convictionunder Article 193.1 of the Criminal Code (criminal responsibility forparticipation in the activities of an unregistered association), whichspecifically aims at hindering civil society activities.

TheObservatory strongly condemns the court decision to close down Platforma, as itis arbitrary and seems to merely aim at sanctioning its legitimate human rightsactivities. It is all the more concerned as human rights defenders andorganisations have been subjected to increasing pressure over the past months,in the electoral context.

Actions requested :

Pleasewrite to the Belarusian authorities, urging them to :

i. Put an end to any kindof harassment - including at the administrative and judicial levels - againstMr. Andrei Bandarenka, Platforma itself and all its members, as well as againstall other human rights defenders in Belarus;

ii. Conform with theprovisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by theGeneral Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially:

- its Article 1, which states that “everyone hasthe right, individually and in association with others, to promote and tostrive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamentalfreedoms at the national and international levels”,

- its Article 6 (b) and (c), which states that“Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others […] asprovided for in human rights and other applicable international instruments,freely to publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information andknowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms and [...] to study,discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice,of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and otherappropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters”.

- and its Article 12.2, which provides that “theState shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by thecompetent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others,against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adversediscrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of hisor her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the presentDeclaration” ;

iii. Ensure in allcircumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordancewith international human rights standards and international instrumentsratified by the Belarusian Republic.

Addresses:

· President AlexanderLukashenko, ul .Karla Marksa, 38, 220016 Minsk, Belarus, Fax :

+ 375 172 26 06 10 or +375 172 22 38 72, Email: contact@president.gov.by

Head of theAdministration of the President of Belarus, Mr. Vladimir Vladimirovich Makei,Ul. K. Marksa 34, 220016 Minsk, Fax: + 375 17 226-06-10

· General Prosecutor,Grigory Alekseevich Vasilevich, Internatsionalnaya str. 22, 220050 Minsk,Belarus, Fax: + 375 17 226 42 52

· Minister of Justice ofBelarus, Mr. Viktor Grigorevich Golovanov, Ul. Kollektornaya,10, 220004 Minsk, Belarus, Email kanc@minjust.by

· President of the SupremeCourt of Belarus, Mr. Valentin Olegovich Sukalo, Ul. Lenina,28, 220030 Minsk, Belarus, Email: scjustrb@pmrb.gov.by

· Permanent Mission ofBelarus to the United Nations in Geneva, 15 avenue de la paix, 1211 Geneva 20,Switzerland, Fax: +41 22 748 24 51. Email: mission.belarus@ties.itu.int

· Embassy of Belarus inBrussels, 192 avenue Molière, 1050 Ixelles, Belgium, Fax : + 32 2.340.02.87,Email : embbel@skynet.be

·

Please also write to thediplomatic mission or embassy of Belarus in your respective country.

***

Paris-Geneva, October 12,2012

Kindly inform us of anyaction undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

To contact the Observatory,call the emergency line:

  • E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
  • Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
  • Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
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