We remind that the volunteers of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee took part in election monitoring campaigns, defended the rights of lawyers using international mechanisms, defended pension rights of Belarusians from abuses of a “qualifying period”, proposed the solutions aimed at improving the legislation (for instance, as a result of our involvement, the right of witnesses to legal counsel was established), kept international bodies constantly informed about the human rights situation in Belarus country, promote the Sustainable Development Goals and much more.
The Belarusian Helsinki Committee received a second warning from the Justice Ministry. By law, after two warnings within a year, a public organization may be dismantled.
The current situation is as follows:
On 6 July, the BHC received a request from the Ministry of Justice for information in connection with “control proceedings for compliance with the requirements of the legislation of the Republic of Belarus and the charter of the given organization.”
On 16 July, the Ministry of Justice wanted to receive documents on 30 points. Among other things, this list included the organization’s correspondence, annual management plans, minutes of all sittings of the BHC elected bodies, documents related to the events held within Belarus and abroad, work plans, lists of members, etc.
On 14 July, the office of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee was searched. During the search, no one was present in the office because it was not a public day. We learned about the search from unofficial sources, including, among other things, the publication of one Telegram channel. We do not provide the source because we find the channel toxic. The door was broken into, the office is sealed.
Despite this, on 16 July we timely submitted those of the requested documents that were available to the Ministry of Justice. We also informed the Ministry about the Office being sealed since 14 July. The rest of the documents requested by the Ministry were left behind the doors of a sealed office, so we could not have submitted them in due time.
In our opinion, the amount of information requested was excessive. However, we were ready to provide all the documents. Therefore, we informed the Ministry that the missing documents would be submitted as soon as the members of the BHC can enter the office.
We also asked the Ministry of Justice to take all possible measures within its competence to ensure the protection of the rights and legitimate interests of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, because the office sealed complicated the Committee’s work for human rights protection.
Meanwhile, in order to get access to the sealed office, on 19 July we applied to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Investigative Committee and the General Prosecutor's Office of Belarus. However, the problem has not been resolved so far, and we cannot get to the office.
Despite the situation, the Ministry of Justice issued a warning to us for a failure to submit the documents. The Ministry's order also requested us to eliminate the violation by 27 July. However, we received the order only in the evening of 27 July (this fact can be evidenced by the stamp of the post office). It is nonetheless fair to point out that this was caused by slow work of the mail service — the letter from the Ministry of Justice was sent on 21 July.
Therefore, we reasonably could not have fulfilled the ministry’s demand.
The Belarusian Helsinki Committee reiterated the appeal to the Ministry of Justice of Belarus with a request to take all possible measures within the competence of the Ministry to ensure the protection of the rights and legitimate interests of the Committee, as well as to cancel the warning given that we failed to submit the information due to objective circumstances beyond the control of the organization.
We maintain the position that all possible legal means should be used to preserve the legal status of the Committee. We hope that the Ministry will listen to our arguments. Otherwise, we will appeal the warning to the Supreme Court.