Aarhus Convention member states take unprecedented decision on Belarus over persecuting NGOs

On October 21, the Aarhus Convention member states adopted The Decision on Belarus which recognises the liquidation of the environmental organisation Ekadom as a case of persecution and oppression of NGOs, ecohome-ngo.by reports.

The decision not only considers the liquidation as a violation, but also provides for the suspension of Belarus’ rights and privileges under the Convention if the country does not take steps to restore the registration of Ekodom by December 1. In the contrary case, the suspension will take effect on February 1, 2022.

It is the first time in the history of the Convention that all attempts to reach a consensus have been exhausted and the parties have been forced to resort to voting. 34 out of 39 countries voted in favour of the proposal on Belarus and called on its authorities to cancel the ruling to close down the NGO Ekadom.

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The Aarhus Convention (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters) was adopted on 25 June 1998 in the Danish city of (Århus) at the Fourth Ministerial Conference as part of the “Environment for Europe” process. It entered into force on 30 October 2001. It establishes a number of rights of the public (individuals and their associations) with regard to the environment. The parties to the Convention are required to make the necessary provisions so that public authorities (at national, regional or local level) will contribute to these rights to become effective.

The year of 2021 is known for the Lukashenka regime’s unprecedented pressure on Belarusian NGOs. The authorities have liquidated or launched the liquidation prosess of about 200 organisations.

UNHRC on situation in Belarus: Continuing police raids against NGOs and media, arrests of journos and activists