On October 3 the lower house of the Belarus parliament adopted in the two readings the bill ‘On Making Addenda and Amendments to Some Laws of the Republic of Belarus’. This bill, among other things, makes foreign financial support and financial aid to NGOs (including unions) completely illegal and further complicates arranging of mass protests and actions.
BELARUS: On October 3 the lower house of the Belarus parliament adopted in the two readings the bill ‘On Making Addenda and Amendments to Some Laws of the Republic of Belarus’. This bill, among other things, makes foreign financial support and financial aid to NGOs (including unions) completely illegal. Such aid is treated as a criminal offence. The NGOs are also forbidden to have money on the accounts of foreign banks. The bill also complicates arranging of mass protests and actions.
Another bill introduced to the parliament, ‘On Making Amendments and Addenda to the Law of the Republic of Belarus ‘On mass events in Belarus,’ further criminalizes mass protests and actions.
The upper house of the Belarus parliament will consider both bills on October 21.
A third bill introduced to the parliament substantially widens the authority of the State Security Committee of the Republic of Belarus. Thus, it allows the officers of the Committee to enter any premises, using physical force if needed, without a court order. When and what version of the bill will be adopted is unknown.
According to some sources, the bills were discussed in the Parliament in secret. Belarus media reports that even the press office of the Parliament doesn’t have access to the notes of the hearing on October 3. It is unknown if there were MPs who abstained or voted against the bills on that day.
Belarus human rights activists strongly condemned the new bills. EU representatives also criticized the new legislation.
‘The bills are not aimed at preventing crime and terrorism. They are aimed at intimidating the citizens whose point of view on what is happening in Belarus differs from that of the authority,’ said Gennady Fedynich, president of the Trade Union of Workers of Radio & Electronics Industry, Automobile Machinery, Metalworking Industry and Other Branches of the National Economy (REPAM), an IMF affiliate.
‘Furthermore, these bills will not improve the economic condition of the working people, students and retired workers. I’m convinced that they will not encourage the consolidation of society on the issue of overcoming social and economic impasse in which Belarus is trapped. The effects of the bills will be quite the opposite,’ added Fedynich.
‘I believe there’s no need to tighten the laws on NGOs. The existing laws and the actual legal practices don’t permit the citizens to freely exercise their right to create such organizations and engage in civic, not political, activity,’ said Vasily Levchenkov, president of the Free Metalworkers’ Union (SPM), also an IMF affiliate in Belarus.Oct 20, 2011 – Ilya Matveev