It poses great danger for non-governmental organizations as from now on receiving foreign funding will be considered a criminal offence. For instance, it was proposed to add to Article 21 of the "Law on Public Associations" the following: "Republican and local civic associations, their unions are prohibited to store cash assets, precious metals and other valuables in banks and non-bank financial institutions in the territory of foreign states." From now on according to Criminal Code, "receiving, storage and movement of foreign donations directed to carry out extremist activities or other activities prohibited by the laws of the Republic of Belarus, or the funding of political parties, unions (associations) of political parties, the preparation or conduct of elections, referendums, recall MP, a member of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus, organization or holding of meetings, rallies, marches, demonstrations, picketing, strikes, or distribution of campaign materials, seminars or other forms of political and mass agitation work among the population, committed during the year after the imposition of administrative penalties for the same offences are punishable by fine or imprisonment for up to three months, or restraint of liberty for up to three years, or deprivation of liberty for up to two years. "
For political life in general the most defining issue is the further criminalization of protest actions. The constitutional right to freedom of assembly loses any sense. At a time when it is impossible to get permission to hold protests in the country, the protests actually appear to be prohibited as such. For example, now under the Criminal Code, "the public calls for a meeting, rally, street processions, demonstrations or picketing in violation of the rules of their organization or conduct, or involvement of a person in participation in these mass actions by force, threat of force, fraud or reward , or other organization or holding of such events, if their conduct negligently caused loss of life, committing grievous bodily harm to one or more persons or damage to the bringing in large amounts in the absence of the crimes stipulated in Articles 293 and 342 of this Code, shall be punishable by arrest for a period up to six months, or restraint of liberty for up to three years, or depricvation of liberty for the same period. "
The proposed extension of KGB’s authority
Under the amendments, proposed to the legislation, the KGB will be permanently removed from the control of other bodies and will be entitled wirh the powers characteristic to state of emergency. For example, they will have the right to break into homes and offices at any time of day and night.
State security officers may be entitled to "… enter freely, if necessary, with damage to the device (which are closed), and other items at any time in the accommodation or other lawful possession of individuals, to the rooms and (or) other objects of government and other organizations (except for premises and other objects of diplomatic and consular missions of foreign states, international organizations that enjoy diplomatic immunity in accordance with international treaties of the Republic of Belarus, and premises, where employees of these offices, organizations and their family reside). … " Now, it is also under the law that "officer of the state security can not be held liable for damages caused in connection with the use of physical force, special means, military and special equipment, weapons as stipulated in this Law and other legislative acts, when he acted in conditions of sound professional risk. ***
Human rights activists protest against changes in legislation
Representatives of international human rights organizations «Amnesty International», ARTICLE 19, Civil Rights Defenders, Front Line Defenders, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights House Foundation, Norwegian Helsinki Committee and the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders called upon the Council of the Republic – the upper chamber of Belarusian parliament with urgent appeal not to endorse the recent changes in legislation, which contradict the freedom of assembly and freedom of association and severely limit the activities of Belarusian civil society groups, especially those dealing with human rights or related issues.
"We are deeply concerned about the inevitable consequences of the proposed amendments to the activities of Belarusian NGOs, who are at risk to be under the increasing supervision by the authorities. The current legislative initiatives also further restrict the freedom of association and assembly, "- said in an address to the Council of the Republic.
The representatives of the Belarusian democratic NGOs and human rights defenders issued a joint statement, urging the authorities to repeal repressive laws which, in their estimation, "aimed to intimidate the Belarusian society, endanger the country’s return to the path of normal development and drive her to the position of self-isolation."
According to the lawyer Yury Chavusau (left), "the new rules actually give legitimacy to practices that were applied to the participants ofPloshcha protests and Ales Bialiatski."
Assembly of Democratic NGOs, republican human rights public association "Belarusian Helsinki Committee", Human Rights Centre "Viasna", Centre for Legal Transformation analysed the proposed changes and amendemnts to a number of Belarusian laws and concluded that the draft of the Law "On Amendments to the Law of the Republic of Belarus", "On mass events in Belarus," the Law "On making Addenda and Amendments to Some Laws of the Republic of Belarus," the Law "On Amendments and Additions to the Law of the Republic of Belarus "On state Security of the Republic Belarus" conflict with the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus (article 25, 33, 35, 36), as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the international obligations of the Republic of Belarus, in particular the International Covenant on Civil and political Rights, the Guiding Principles on Freedom of peaceful assembly.