Resolution Concerning Civil Society in Belarus

adopted on 27 January 2011

1. The Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe:

- recalling its declaration concerning the situation in Belarus following the Presidential elections on 19 December [CONF/SC(2010)DEC1]
- condemning the use of brutal police force against the demonstration of 19 December 2010 and continued repressive measures by state bodies against civil society, independent media and political opponents;
- strongly deploring that opposition activists, journalists and civil society representatives are still in custody, many of them being active partners of the Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe, facing charges that could lead to prison sentences up to 15 years, and that efforts continue to intimidate their lawyers;
- reaffirming its commitment to co-operating with and assisting independent civil society organisations and media in Belarus that are also inspired by Council of Europe fundamental values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law;
- welcoming the support of the Council of Europe to ensure regular participation of civil society representatives from Belarus in the sessions of the Conference of INGOs and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe;
2. The Conference of INGOs:
- calls on the authorities in Belarus to release immediately all persons detained during and after the last presidential elections, and to ensure unhindered access for the detainees to medical care, legal assistance and their relatives;
- supports international civil society initiatives by human rights defenders such as the “International Observation Mission” formed by the “Committee on International Control over the Human Rights Situation in Belarus” and stands ready to co-operate with all such initiatives;
- calls on the nearly 400 INGOs with participatory status, their national members, partner organisations, individual members and European citizens to voice their solidarity in support of the arrested civil society activists, journalists and members of the democratic opposition and the demand for their immediate release;
- draws the attention of the Council of Europe to the situation in which the Belarusian Helsinki Committee has been placed, having received a warning by the Ministry of Justice; and requests relevant Council of Europe bodies to bear this situation in mind when examining their relations with Belarus notably given that one more warning by the Ministry of Justice would suffice to shut down the Belarusian Helsinki Committee;
- expresses its full readiness to continue to play its institutional part in Council of Europe policies and programmes established to assist Belarus in attaining European standards of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, such that Belarus can in due course be accepted as a member state; these programmes should in the immediate assure the renewal of the regular meetings of the Council of Europe civil society communication platforms for Belarus which enable interaction between INGOs and civil society organisations of Belarus, in particular those working in the fields of human rights, advocacy, media, education, youth and women’s organisations;
- requests its President to initiate by June 2011 proposals for enhanced support for civil society, independent media, human rights defenders, educational institutions, youth and women`s organisations in Belarus, such proposals to be presented to the Committee of Ministers, the Parliamentary Assembly, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities and the Secretary General of the Council of Europe.