2009 10/09

The Ministry of Justice confirms the intention of the authorities to abolish the article 193 of the Criminal Code that provides for liability for the activity in an unregistered organization. (Hereinafter – the spelling of origin)

International public association “Civil Belarus” recently registered in the Czech Republic has received a letter signed by the Deputy Minister of Justice, Mr. Ihar Tushynski.

This document is a concrete response to the call of the organization to the Belarusian authorities to abolish the article. International human rights organizations call for the abolition of the article 193 as well. The response from the Ministry of Justice stated that the question of changes in the normative documents that regulate the activities of civil society in Belarus is currently being considered by the competent authorities. This includes analysis of the provisions relating to the activities on behalf of unregistered political parties and other public organizations. In particular, the document states: “At this stage it is supposed to exclude from the Article 193-1 of the Criminal Code a provision on the responsibility for organizing or participating in the activities of political parties, other public associations, religious organizations or fund that did not pass state registration in accordance with the established procedure. It is planned to change the criminal responsibility for these actions to the administrative responsibility.”

A member of the human rights public association “Nasha Viasna”, Mr. Valiantsin Stefanovich, said that the previous Code of Administrative Offences (before the new one has entered into force) has already been provided the responsibility for the actions on behalf of an unregistered organization in the form of a fine or administrative arrest up to 15 days.

According to the lawyer, the abolition of Article 193-1 of the Criminal Code would change the situation in the country drastically. However, in relation to the administrative responsibility Valiantsin Stefanovich said that we should see how the article will be formulated. In principle, the lawyer considers as unconstitutional the responsibility for the actions on behalf of an unregistered organization, which in any way does not violate the legitimate rights and interests of citizens, and, does not cause any harm. “However, we would certainly welcome the removal of this article from the Criminal Code” – said human rights activist.

It is worth to recall that from the moment when in 2006 the criminal liability for the activities of unregistered associations came into effect, 17 people were convicted under the article 193-1, and the leader of “Young Front”, Zmitser Dashkevich, was sentenced to fifteen years’ imprisonment. At the same time no one was acquitted so far.

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