In response to the news that the Belarusian Justice Ministry intends to liquidate the independent Union of Belarusian Writers, the European Writers Council (EWC) stands up high against the outrageous violation of Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Association.
Brussels, 23 August 2021
Our EWC member, the Union of Belarusian Writers (UBW) Саюз беларускіх пісьменнікаў, is threatened with forced state dissolution. The first hearing is due to take place on 24 August at 14:30 Minsk time. The association was founded in 1934 and was already able to stand up to arbitrary state action in 2006. On 9 August 2021, also the writers’ community of the PEN Centre Belarus was forcibly closed down by the state for allegedly “endangering national security”.
The EWC strongly condemns the current proceedings against its member, the Union of Belarusian Writers. On 13 July, the offices of Саюз беларускіх пісьменнікаў were stormed and sealed. Among other accusations, the Union is now accused of not having been able to submit papers in time – papers that the state itself has put under lock and key. The Chair of our member association, the novelist Barys Piatrovich, is under travel ban and forced to sign non-disclosure agreement. The crackdown on our member as well as now over 50 independent cultural, media and human rights organisations in Belarus is an unprecedented violation of human rights, and against the Belarusian civil society. EWC believes that the indictment is in fact intended to prevent the UBW from continuing to advocate for literary diversity and free speech.
Belarus has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This treaty under international law guarantees the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, supplemented by the UN Declaration on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders. Belarus is also a member of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
All of these international regulations guarantee freedom of association and freedom of expression and specify in which cases these fundamental rights may be restricted. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights clearly states that restrictions must have a legitimate aim and must be necessary and proportionate to that aim in a democratic society. Belarus is also obliged to fulfil its obligations under the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. The EWC calls on the Supreme Court to fulfil its duty as safeguard of freedom.
By dissolving the UBW, Belarus would be in blatant and serious violation of international laws. Therefore, the EWC calls on to European countries to act now to prevent the emergence of a true fascist regime in the midst of Europe. We reiterate our call for active support to the democracy movement through facilitated visas and scholarships abroad, monetary support to NGOs in the neighbouring states and support for the reconstruction of civil associations and societies.
Nina George – President
Maïa Bensimon – Vice President
Miguel Ángel Serrano – Vice President
Myriam Diocaretz – Secretary General
Eystein Hanssen – Board Member
Markku Loytönen – Board Member