2009 12/04

luter-rose_c-1The Commissioner on Religions and Nationalities of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus (registration authority) issued a written warning # 02-03/720 to the Religious Association Evangelical-Lutheran Church in the Republic of Belarus for violating the Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations.
At the same time, the decision by the Commissioner resulted in unfavourable legal consequences for our religious association. Under paragraph 2 Article 37 of the Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations, in case the violations are not corrected or occur again within a year, the registration authority has a right to initiate the organization’s judicial dissolution. Moreover, the registration authority has a right to suspend the activities of the religious organization awaiting results of trial.
Considering this and disagreeing with a number of charges laid in the warning, the Religious Association Evangelical-Lutheran Church in the Republic of Belarus arrived at a decision to appeal it in court, although the procedure is not provided by the Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations.
Guided by Article 60 of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, stating that ‘everyone shall be guaranteed protection of one’s rights and liberties by a competent, independent and impartial court of law within time periods specified in law’, we appealed the decision at the Supreme Court and then at the Supreme Economic Court of Belarus. However, the courts turned down our claims due to lack of jurisdiction.
Thus, a legal conflict was discovered: Article 60 of the Belarusian Constitution guarantees the protection of rights and freedoms in court, but it is impossible to implement the right, since Article 37 of the Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations fails to vest religious organizations with a right to appeal written warnings in court.
It should be observed that in Belarus public associations and political parties have the right to appeal written warnings in court. The procedure is specified by respective legal acts of the Republic of Belarus.
To solve the established legal conflict we, guided by Article 99 of the Belarusian Constitution, addressed the President of the Republic of Belarus, the Council of Ministers (government) and the House of Representatives (parliament) – authorities possessing a legislative initiative right – with a complaint against the warning.
However, neither the President, nor the Parliament and the Government failed to utilize their right to amend the Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations, guaranteed by the Constitution. By doing this the state bodies refused to facilitate the solution of the conflict.
In its decision, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Belarus merely confirmed the direct effect of the provision of Article 60 of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to protection by court of law. Still, the decision failed to affect the solution of the legal conflict.
The pendency on the conflict deprives us of our right to fair and public consideration of the case by a competent and unbiased court of law. Besides, in case the organization is closed down, the Belarusian Lutherans will be deprived of their right to collective and public exercise of religion, performance of religious and ritual rites.
Having exhausted all the national remedies, we submitted a complaint to the UN Human Rights Committee, which was considered admissible and registered under #1749.

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