Resolution adopted on 22 June 2011

Resolution on the Freedom of Association in the Republic of Belarus

The Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe,

Following with attention the developments of the situation with observing the freedom of association in the Republic of Belarus, particularly in relation to human rights NGOs;

Referring to the Recommendation CM/Rec(2007)14 of the Committee of Ministers on the legal status of non-governmental organisations in Europe (adopted on October 10, 2007), the Declaration of the Committee of Ministers on Council of Europe action to improve the protection of human rights defenders and promote their activities (adopted on February 6, 2008), the Resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly 1790(2011) “The situation in Belarus in the aftermath of the presidential election” (adopted on January 27, 2011) and the Statement by the Commissioner for Human Rights “Human Rights Defenders in Belarus are severely persecuted” (made on May 25, 2011);

Recalling its Declaration concerning the situation in Belarus following the Presidential elections on 19 December [CONF/SC(2010)DEC1] and Resolution Concerning Civil Society in Belarus adopted on January 27, 2011 [CONF/PLE(2011)RES2], as well as the Statement of its President “Serious New Developments in Belarus” made on March 20, 2011;

Underlining that the freedom of association is the keystone of a democratic society and one of the main conditions for its progress;

Deplores the resumed application of the Article 193-1 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus criminalising the participation in the work of unregistered public organisations, notably in the case the of President of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” Ales Bialiatski who received an official warning about the inadmissibility of violating this article from the General Prosecutor’s Office, which was further upheld by a court decision;

Is also deeply concerned by the second warning received by the Belarusian Helsinki Committee from the Ministry of Justice accusing BHC of tax evasion on technical support projects received in 2002-2003 under the European Union's TACIS programme, which is sufficient to institute legal proceedings for closing this human rights NGO down;

Reiterates its demand to the Belarusian authorities to ensure the full observance of the international standards on the freedom of association in the country, particularly:
- to repeal criminal liability for participation in the activity of unregistered public organisations (Article 193-1 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus);
- to ensure the opportunity for NGOs to receive funding from institutional or individual donors, another state or multilateral agencies, subject only to the laws generally applicable to customs, foreign exchange and money laundering legislation.

Reaffirms its commitment to co-operate with all stakeholders in improving NGO legislation and advancing human rights, democracy and the rule of law in the Republic of Belarus.