Thursday, October 20, 2011

Council of Europe legal specialists condemn Belarus on NGO freedom

The Council of Europe's advisory body on constitutional matters – better known as the Venice Commission – strongly criticised Belarus for its treatment of non-government organisations (NGOs).

During its plenary session in Venice on 14-15 October, the Commission noted that in the last ten years, almost all human rights NGOs were stripped of their status.

The Venice Commission also deplored a recent modification of Article 193-1 of the Belarus criminal code that represses freedom of association, with the threat of two years incarceration.

Belarusian legislators had approved a package of amendments that significantly expand KGB powers – including the right to enter homes – in addition to banning foreign financing of NGOs. Once the bill is signed into law, security officers will be authorised to break into organisations, as well as residential homes, if they believe a crime was or is being committed or a criminal suspect is hiding inside.

Belarus has been criticised often by the Council of Europe as the only European country which still uses the death penalty.

Source: Council of Europe. Published in strasbourg on 17 October 2011