23. Dezember 2005

New Russian Legislation on NGOs

This Post gives some links about the recent Duma decisions on the new Russian NGO law.

Peter Lavelle, an US think tank, comments on the 2nd reading on the law, referring especially on certain amendments in comparsion to initial bill version

In another comment Lavelle observes the controversial debate on that law http://www.untimely-thoughts.com/index.html?art=2076

Bellona, a Norwegian environment foundation, also looks upon the 2nd reading on, with focus on foreign NGOs and the registration process for Russian NGOs http://www.bellona.no/en/international/russia/envirorights/info_access/41344.html

In another article Bellona stresses the so far mostly unnoticed point, that by the new law foreign and international organizations cannot longer operate in the so-called "closed cities" in Russia (which are a dark heritage of the former Soviet nuclear activities, mostly with high contaminations in their surroundings) http://www.bellona.no/en/international/russia/envirorights/info_access/41357.html

In his "Russia´s NGOs: It´s not so simple" in the IHT Nikolas Gvosdev looks on Russian NGOs with a considerably critical eye http://www.iht.com/articles/2005/12/08/opinion/edgvosdev.php

In an intense deeper going analysis Human Rights Watch critizices the law right from the legislative beginning http://hrw.org/backgrounder/eca/russia1105/

A profound legal analysis of the new law is done by EurActive, an independent media portal dedicated to EU affairs http://www.euractiv.com/Article?tcmuri=tcm:29-150717-16&type=News

The "International Center for Not-For-Profit Law" deals with the law on its initial draft status with links to the Russian and English texthttp://

Also from "International Center for Not-For-Profit Law" comes a lenghty analysis http://www.icnl.org/PRESS/Articles/2005/20051111.htm

2. Dezember 2005

How dangerous is it to live democracy in Belorussia?

Civil engagement in Belorussia - a nightmare?
Tatsiana Khoma, a 21 year old student at the Belarus State Economic University (BSEU), seems to have to pay a high price for being engaged just for students interests. In beginning of november 2005 she attended a conference of the "National Unions of Students in Europe" (ESIB), taking place in Reims, France. ESIB is an umbrella organisation of 44 national unions of students from 34 countries Tatsiana in Reims was among about 100 participants from all over Europe. - On November 24th the Universities administration informed her, that she will be expelled due to the fact that she attended ESIB's European Student Gathering "Higher Education and European Citizenship", without notifying the university. Tatsiana Khoma did not notify the university because of two important facts: firstly will the law on reporting your whereabouts to the university not take effect until two months, and secondly did she only visit the conference during the weekend.
All people under controll?
Belorussia is known as the country of one of Europe's last dictator, Aleksander Lukashenko, a man, who on his presidential website openly announces his motto: "I sometimes have to take unpopular decisions. I know that I will not be liked because of that." It seems, this kind of "top-to-bottom-education" is introduced in all the hierarchy of the country. At least Mr Vladimir Nikolaevich Shimov, Rector of the BSEU, seems trying to become a "small Lukashenko". Such methods seem to help a personal career - but not civil engagement for the interests of all people. Time by time some Belorussion organisations demand their participation also in the structures of NGO Baltic Sea cooperation. But sorry, ladies and gentlemen, please give us an explanation about such authoritarian behaviour - why it can happen, and why without your common and loud protest?

Students organisations are shocked
The European studentsorganisation ESIB strongly condemns the actions taken by the Belarus State Economic University, as an "unacceptable violation of student and human rights [with special reference to articles 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human rights]". ESIB has sent a letter to the Rector of the BSEU, for to demand stopping of the actions against Tatsiana Khoma, and to allow her to continue her studies at the BSEU without any further harassment from the management of the University.
But their is not much hope. The girl did not only to leave the University, but also her room at the dormitory.
The Norwegian Association of Students has started a campaign in favour of Tatsiana, and have already collected hundreds of signatures for three aims:
a) Tatsiana Khoma should be allowed to continue as an ordinary student at Belarus State Economic University (BSEU).
b) Tatsiana Khoma should be allowed to stay in her dormitory.
c)All students in Belarus should be able to engage in the student movement both nationally and internationally.
"It is completely unacceptable that a student representative is treated this way and we want to show that Norwegian students strongly dissapproves of these actions", says ?yvind Reidar Bakke, President of Studentenes Landsforbund (StL).

Any chance for a change?
Tatsiana's case now seems to becomes an object of diplomacy. Even ministries and rectors conferences row up for support. The Swedish Minister for Education also wrote a letter of protest. And there is - what a wonder - a reaction! In an open letter published at the Belarus State Economic University website, the rector declares that he will stand by his decision to expel Tatsiana Khoma. He says that Tatsiana "performed a rude violation of the inner regulations of the University and demonstrated her straight unrespect for BSEU as an organization which is legally and morally responsible for the students’ security during their educational process" and that the decision "was made in accordance with the norms of the Republic of Belarus legislation in the field of education". He also critizises the international organisations who have written to him so far.

ESIB chairperson Vanja Ivosevic says: "I think the main reason why no one asked the rectors' permission to send Taciana to France is the simple fact that this course of action is unheard of anywhere else in Europe! It is a human right to move and travel freely." ESIB is still appealing to governments and international organisations to ask the rector to reverse the decision of expulsion.