Founded in 1995, the National Human Rights Public Association “Belarusian Helsinki Committee” is one of the oldest human rights defenders organizations in Belarus. The list of its founders includes the nation’s most prominent leaders such as Vasil' Bykau, Sviatlana Alexievich (Nobel prize in literature 2015).
BHC sees as its main objective creating of civic context, in which citizens, businesses and the government would realize that a comfortable and convenient living environment in the country may only be established through active participation and collaboration of all actors. In this way, the Committee promotes human rights as paramount element of economic and human development.
BHC works mainly on six major human rights topics, such as: business and human rights (the topic has never been widely discussed in Belarus, and BHC is in fact pioneering business and human rights), discrimination (BHC carries out research and promotes the introduction of special anti-discrimination legislation), human rights based approach (BHC promotes incorporation of human rights instruments in project development at various levels), international human rights mechanisms (BHC promotes the use of the mechanisms by non-human rights organizations and develops electronic resources for assisting these organizations); national human rights mechanisms (BHC examines the legislation and addresses its gaps in order to provide as many protective measures as possible); death penalty (BHC carries out research and opens new aspects of death penalty such as overall brutalization of societies in which death penalty is practiced, for those interested).
The BHC’s main ways of working include legal aid, monitoring, analysis, reporting and informing on human rights situation, advocacy, training, and communication campaigns. BHC has extensive experience of cooperation with UN international mechanisms. Alone and with other CSOs, the Committee has prepared and presented alternative reports on ICCPR, ICESCR, CEDAW, UPR and cooperated with various UN special rapporteurs.
Among other things, the BHC’s main approaches include technologies new for the non-government sector in Belarus. For instance, now BHC is planning a study on discrimination using marketing tools such as customer journey map. Moreover, BHC uses transparency technologies: the NGO focuses on fostering dialogue with all groups and was the first NGO in Belarus to provide data used in its reports in the form of open data.
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History of BHC
Its foundation on November 1, 1995 was considered to be a reaction to the socio-political situation in Belarus. Outrage upon the national white-red-white flag served as a peculiar catalyst for the establishment of the human rights organization.
Tatiana Protsko was the first chairperson of the association. Today Aleh Hulak is the chairman of BHC.
Nowadays its representatives work in 12 towns of the republic.
BHC exposes human rights violations, provides legal assistance to the individuals (annually BHC receives about 2000 complaints), regularly holds human rights seminars and educating training courses for youth activists and lawyers, publishes human rights literature, organizes various events, aiming to draw public attention to the issues of human rights violations in the Republic of Belarus.
BHC analyses the legislation and puts forward proposals on how to improve it: proposals to the Criminal Code, the labour legislation, the media legislation and the electoral law have been worked out, as well as to The Constitution of the Republic of Belarus. BHC members participated in missions of the International Helsinki Federation, observed the human rights situation in Transdniestria (Moldova), North Caucasus (Russian Federation), in the Ukraine, Tadjikistan and Uzbekistan.
BHC representatives took part in numerous “ordinary” and “celebrated” cases, defending Pavel Sheremet, Valery Shchukin, Irina Makovetskaya and other journalists; newspapers “Narodnaya Volia” and “Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta”; Yuri Bandazhevsky, Andrey Klimov and other prisoners of consience; relatives of the disappeared Yuri Zaharenko, Viktor Gonchar, Anatoly Krasovsky, Dmitry Zavadsky; representatives of different confessions; parliamentary and president candidates; participants of peaceful manifestations; entrepreneurs and socially exposed citizens; refugees; abused prisoners and hundreds of other people.
In 1998 BHC was presented with the award of the European Union and the United States for its recognition of achievements in promoting democratic values and a civil society.
220036 Minsk, K. Liebnecht str., 68, office 1201;
Tel. +37517 222 48 01, fax: +37517 222 48 00;
e-mail: office @ belhelcom.org
* In this and other texts as BHC and Belarusian Helsinki Committee