Declaration from the Presidency on behalf of the European Union on the Belarus Helsinki Committee

In its statement at the OSCE Permanent Council on 27 October 2005 the European Union expressed its concern at the re-opening of the case against the Belarus Helsinki Committee (BHC) for alleged tax evasion relating to TACIS grants. The EU urged the Belarusian authorities to cease their campaign of harassment against the BHC.
The EU was therefore disappointed to learn of the decision by the Belarus Supreme Economic Court on 20 December 2005 to reverse its original decision and reinstate harsh penalties against the BHC. These include crippling fines and back taxes of $75,000 and renewed threats of criminal prosecution against the BHC Chairwoman and ChiefAccountant.

The EU believes that this is a politically motivated attack designed to close one of the last remaining independent NGOs in Belarus in advance of the 2006 presidential elections. It is disturbed by such actions, which are clearly in breach of Belarus' international commitments.

The EU would like to confirm, once again, its support for the work of the BHC, which has played an important role in promoting OSCE principles in Belarus. It looks forward to continued co-operation with them.

The Acceding Countries Bulgaria and Romania, the Candidate Countries Croatia * and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia *, the Countries of the Stabilisation and
Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, and the EFTA countries Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, members of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine align themselves with this declaration. * Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.