Belarusian Helsinki Committee gets a years reprieve
The Belarusian Presidential Property Management service has extended the lease agreement for the Belarusian Helsinki Committees office. The Committees Chairperson, Tatyana Protko announced this following a meeting with the acting head of the service Mikhail Belyaev. Ms Protko said that the lease had been extended thanks to expressions of support for the organization from the European Union and the US State Department.
Tatyana Protko was informed that although the human rights group was not the best tenant, the agreement would be renewed for another year. This means that the organization still has a legal address, and does not therefore face closure.
In December 2006 the Presidential Property Management service informed the Belarusian Helsinki Committee that it was terminating the lease agreement and demanded that they vacate the office by 20 January 2007. Previously, in November of last year the Economic Court in Minsk ordered the confiscation of office equipment since the human rights group was accused of not having paid tax on financial aid received under the European Union TASIS programme (technical assistance from the EU to CIS countries). The Supreme Court also returned to proceedings initiated by the Ministry of Justice to have the Committee, which celebrated its first decade of work last year, closed.
The actions of the Belarusian authorities with regard to the Belarusian Helsinki Committee were condemned by the international human rights community. Tatyana Protko is convinced that the position taken by the EU and USA were of enormous importance, and on behalf of the Committees staff thanks all who supported them.