International Helsinki Federation urges EU to take steps to protect Belarus’ civil society 12:31, 14/02/2006
The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) has urged European Unions leaders to take steps to protect human rights groups in Belarus, Russia and several South Asian countries.
In a statement issued on Monday, the global human rights watchdog condemned hefty penalties that Belarus` Supreme Economic Court reinstated against its member committee in the country (Belarusian Helsinki Committee) and crackdown on other human rights groups and independent media.
It also expressed criticism of recent amendments to the Criminal Code that had established tough penalties for those found guilty of inciting street protests or distributing information regarded as harmful to national interests.
The group said that the legislation would damage the work of human rights defenders. It paves the way for “wide discretionary powers for authorities to interpret legitimate human rights activities as illegal attempts to discredit or harm the Belarusian state,” it said.
“An assault against human rights activity in Russia, Belarus, and Uzbekistan is more damaging than any since the fall of communist regimes, and demands condemnation by top international leaders,” said IHF Executive Director Aaron Rhodes.