End Harassment of Human Rights Advocates in Belarus

Target: Belarusian Authorities

Goal: Stop the endless persecution of human rights activists and groups by the government of Belarus

Human rights injustices are a serious problem in Belarus. Instead of working to end these crimes, the Belarusian government has relentlessly harassed and attacked human rights organizations and activists. The Belarusian Helsinki Committee is the only human rights organization authorized to operate on a national scope in Belarus. For years, the Belarusian authorities and ministries have harassed this organization, trying to shut it down for good.

The most recent attack came from the Taxation Ministry, as government officials attempted to silence the Commission by serving its leader, Aleh Hulak, with a warrant to seize the property of the organization. “Yet again, the Belarusian authorities are using bogus tax claims to harass human rights activists,” said Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director of Human Rights Watch. “The authorities can pretend that these are routine legal measures, but their intentions are blatant–to silence the last remaining critical voices in the country.”

In 2004, the Taxation Ministry ordered the group to pay 155 million BYR (or $18,000) in taxes on tax-exempt grants the Belarusian Helsinki Committee had received from the European Commission. Although the Belarusian Helsinki Committee successfully appealed this ludicrous demand, the Supreme Economic Court of Belarus overturned the appeal in 2006, and subsequently confiscated the Committee’s property.

Two years ago, in 2011, the Justice Ministry issued two official warnings to the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, accusing the group of “spreading false information” and violating other regulatory laws. Based on the two warnings it received, the human rights group became vulnerable for government-led termination. Months later, the Taxation and Justice Ministries began the legal dissolution process.

As discussed in-depth by Human Rights Watch, the Belarusian government’s suppression of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee is part of a larger effort to stifle human rights activism and the freedom of expression on a national level.

The Belarusian government has a responsibility to its people to investigate accusations of human rights violations, and work to end any crimes against humanity. The Belarusian authorities must leave the Belarusian Helsinki Committee (and other human rights activists) alone, allowing them to do their jobs as protectors of civil liberties. Sign below to request the Belarusian authorities do just this, and cease harassment of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Belarusian Authorities,

The continued harassment of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee is disappointing, and your intentions fundamentally transparent.

Instead of this relentless attack to keep activists from speaking out against the very real and tragic violations of human rights occurring in Belarus, the Belarusian authorities ought to be investigating these crimes and working to end human rights violations.

Acting in the current manner, the Belarusian government is in violation of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. This measure states that nations have the duty and responsibility to “take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of [human rights defenders] against…retaliation…pressure or any other arbitrary action” in any attempt to uphold human rights.

“The Belarusian authorities should stop harassing independent voices and instead spend its energy and resources addressing the country’s many serious human rights problems,” pointed out a leader at Human Rights Watch.

Please give human rights the attention it deserves, and use the available government resources to protect human rights in Belarus as opposed to trying to silence activists. The harassment of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee must be brought to a definitive end.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

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Signatures

  • alper arslan
  • stefan hellmann
  • Elizabeth O'Halloran
  • Laura Saxon
  • Stefano Serpico
  • Betty J. Van Wicklen
  • Ginger Hill
  • Birgitt Böhm
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