Friday, 22 August 2003
In June 2003 Executive Director Maria Dahle and Project Manager Berit Lindeman travelled to Belarus for further consultations with human rights defenders. Extensive work has been laid down by a number of organisations in Belarus in order to prepare the ground for the establishment of a Human Rights House, and a new association, “Belarusian Human Rights House Association”, was founded.
The need for a Human Rights House in Minsk has been further demonstrated as the persecution of civil society continued with increased intensity over the last year. Several major human rights defence organisations have had their registration, and thereby their right to activity, revoked by the authorities. Agency of Regional Development “Varuta” and “Youth Christian Social Union” are among the organisations who have experienced this. In addition, the acknowledged Grodno Regional Centre “Ratusha” has received its second warning, and will most probably be closed. Time-consuming audits and inspections appear to be carried out for the sole purpose of hampering the work of civil society, and currently both “Viasna” and “Law Initiative” are subject to such inspections.
The government harasses several of the Belarusian organisations that are members of the HRH network. In addition, independent newspapers have been closed or suspended over the last few months, including Belarusian Delovaya Gazeta and Predprinimatelskaya Gazeta. The Human Rights House Foundation hopes that the establishment of a Human Rights House in Minsk will increase security and protect civil society in Belarus.