Freedom of Association and the Legal Status of NGOs in Belarus, 2007

This analysis is prepared by experts of the Assembly of Pro-democratic NGOs of Belarus within the framework

of the joint project with the Foundation for Legal Technologies Development.

In 2007, the situation in respect to the freedom of association in Belarus did not improve and the legal status of NGOs remained extremely difficult. The legal climate for the establishment and activities of independent civic organizations remained unfavourable. The enactment and law implementation revealed a growing tendency toward further restrictions on freedom of association. Much of the abridgment of freedom of association and restrictions on the activities of NGOs are not based on laws but are due to Decrees of the President, regulations and instructions made by the Ministry of Justice and law enforcement. In 2007, the most severe repressive measures against NGOs were related to activities carried out by unregistered organizations, which is regarded as a penal action. The regime’s arsenal of repressive measures includes the criminal prosecution of members of unregistered NGOs and knowingly illegal mass arrests of civic activists (frequently of a preventive nature). Unwarranted searches of NGO offices were reported regularly, as was intimidation of their activists by the security services.

At the same time, it should be mentioned that several initiatives were undertaken to bring legal regulations concerning civic organizations in conformity to existing legislation. The Republican Committee on the Registration (Re-Registration) of Civic Organizations was eliminated, which brought terms of decisions on registration inline with requirements under law. The number of calls for the liquidation of public associations by the Ministry of Justice and, correspondingly, the number of NGOs which were closed down by the authorities, fell. Despite pessimistic expectations, the procedures required to adjust the statutes of nongovernmental organizations as required by the Law “On Civic Organizations” (the 2005 amendment) did not result in significant difficulties for NGOs and did not become the basis for a massive liquidation of organizations. The number of civic organizations registered in 2007 remained small, and politically motivated denials of the registration of new groups did take place. There remain few opportunities to create independent nongovernmental organizations in Belarus.

Full text

Freedom of association.pdf

Assembly of Pro-democratic NGOs of Belarus