2009 06/09

The Ministry of Justice confirms the intention of the authorities to abolish article 193-1 of the Criminal Code, which provides for liability for the activity in an unregistered organization.

This became known directly from an official document of the Ministry of Justice. (Hereinafter – the spelling of the original source)

The other day the International Public Association “Civil Belarus” (Czech Republic) has received a letter signed by the Deputy Minister of Justice, Mr. Ihar Tushynski. This paper is a kind of answer to the call to the Belarusian authorities to abolish the shameful article.

The call of the Czech organization to the Ministry of Justice happened in the scope of campaign “Stop 193.1”, initiated by the Assembly of NGOs. Within this campaign non-governmental organizations and associations of various countries demanded the Belarusian authorities to abolish article 193-1. Also during the campaign, foreign associations inform their governments about the situation with freedom of association in Belarus.

Form the reply of the Ministry of Justice it is evident that the question about the possible changes in documents regulating the activities of civil society in Belarus is currently being considered by the competent authorities. The analysis of the provisions relating to activities on behalf of unregistered political parties and other social organizations is also performed.

In particular, the document states: “At this stage it is supposed to exclude from article 193-1 of the Criminal Code rule on responsibility for organizing or participating in the activities of political parties, other public association, religious organization or a foundation 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 lawyer, Mr. Yury Chavusau, commented the information on the possible revision of article 193-1 of the Criminal Code:
The wording in a letter of the Ministry of Justice rather vague. The fact is that the possibility of abolition of this notorious criminal article is only examined by unnamed authorities. However, the fact that the government first acknowledged the existence of problem and listened to the opinion of many critics of the abnormal legal situation is already a great achievement. It is obvious that the best option would be a complete abolition of the ban on the activities of unregistered associations.

This would bring Belarus to European standards of legal regulation of civil society. However, the State chooses the intervening solution: the activities of unregistered associations will stop to be a felony, but will still be illegal, and will be considered as an administrative offense.

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 article 193-1. At the same time no one was acquitted so far.

Assembly of non-governmental democratic associations

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