On 26 July 2021, it became known that the Ministry of Justice had filed a Statement of Claim with the Supreme Court to liquidate the Ecohome NGO.
Here we describe the chronology of the ongoing events — the liquidation and pressure on the organisation (updated).
On 3 September 2021, in the morning, KGB representatives came to the house of Irina Sukhiy, a member of the Ecohome NGO Council, to conduct a search operation in the context of criminal proceedings (neither the kind of case nor Irina’s status in it is not known).
On 31 August 2021, at 10.00 a.m., the Supreme Court considered the claim of the Ministry of Justice on the liquidation of the public organisation Ecohome. (The Judge was A. M. Sokolovskaya, the Prosecutor was I. I. Rudenko, the Ministry of Justice was represented by A. V. Pechkurov). The Supreme Court decided to liquidate the Ecohome NGO (text of the Decision).
On 23 August 2021, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Belarus (The Judge was I. V. Lazovikova) considered Ecohome’s complaint concerning the warning announced by the Ministry of Justice.
The court proceedings were attended by Ecohome’s lawyers, by A. V. Pechkurov, Deputy Head of the Department for non-profit organisations of the Ministry of Justice, and a representative of the General Prosecutor’s Office.
The court rejected the complaint, despite the unsubstantiated nature of the alleged violations and the failure of the Ministry to comply with the term of sending the warning. The main reasoning is «the volume of the documents received by the Ministry of Justice did not meet the expectations of the Ministry of Justice». The warning was upheld.
On 10 August 2021, an examination was held in the Supreme Court as trial preparations for the case on the Ecohome NGO complaint against the written warning issued by the Ministry of Justice. The Judge was I. V. Lazovikova.
On 5 August 2021, an examination (preliminary interview) was held in the Supreme Court as preparation for the consideration of the Ministry of Justice claim against the Ecohome NGO on the liquidation of the public organisation. Lawyers of the Ecohome NGO continue to view no violations in the organisation’s activities, which were mentioned in the claim of the Ministry of Justice. In particular, the Ecohome NGO had the right not to fulfil the requirements listed in the written warning. But it had the right to appeal against them and did so. Hearing of the claim on the merits was postponed pending a decision on the complaint against the written warning. The Judge was A. M. Sokolovskaya, the Ministry of Justice was represented by A. V. Pechkurov (Deputy Head of the Department for non-profit organisations).
On 26 July 2021 at 5:59 p.m., the Telegram channel of the Ministry of Justice Press Service posted that the Ministry of Justice considered that we had repeatedly violated the law, and it filed a Statement of Claim with the Supreme Court to liquidate the Ecohome NGO.
On 26 July 2021, in the morning, we sent a letter to the Ministry of Justice, stating that we disagreed with the grounds for the warning and justified our position;
On 22 July 2021, we received a letter from the Ministry of Justice with a warning in which they requested to eliminate the violations of the law and inform the Ministry of Justice about this no later than 20 July 2021 (the letter was dated as of 14 July 2021, it was mailed to the post-office on 19 July, we received it on 22 July); (text of the Warning).
Here is our clarification of the violations found by the Ministry of Justice, which had led to the warning, and why we disagree with it:
The Ministry of Justice considered that we had not provided the documents regarding the owner of the premises, confirming our right to be located at the legal address. However, the Ministry of Justice was provided with an agreement for gratuitous use and an act of acceptance and transfer of the premises, although the Ministry of Justice initially requested the documents confirming the legal address, without specifying what kind of documents they needed. In 2017, the Charter was amended to change the legal address in the Ministry of Justice, all the documents were submitted in full.
The Ministry of Justice found that we had not provided a list of our members in full; namely, they requested to provide them with all the personal information about each and every member of the organisation (their place of residence, place of work, date of birth, contact numbers, and personal signatures). Whilst, the legislation and the Charter of the Ecohome NGO do not provide for the format requirements for the public organisation’s lists of members.
In its letter, the Ministry of Justice also indicated that during the monitoring of our website, it was established that the Ecohome NGO interacted with such organisations as the Belarusian National Youth Council ‘RADA’, the Assembly of the NDA, the Belarusian National Platform of the Civil Society Forum. At the same time, Part 2 of Article 7 of the Law «On Public Organisations» states: «The activity of unregistered public organisations (their unions, associations) on the territory of the Republic of Belarus is prohibited». Thus, the legislation prohibits the activities of unregistered organisations (their unions, associations) and does not prohibit the interaction with them or with the individuals who act on behalf of such organisations.
Therefore, we consider that the warning issued to the organisation has an unsubstantiated nature, and we disagree with it. We informed the Ministry of Justice about this. We are presently planning to appeal the warning.
On 16 July 2021, the house of Marina Dubina, the director of Ecohome, was searched. The search operation was conducted under Articles 293 and 342 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus (mass riots and organisation of actions violating public order);
On 16 July 2021, they attempted to search the office but could not get inside. Earlier, on 14 July 2021, our colleagues’ office was searched;
On 09 July 2021, we submitted the documents on more than 1,000 pages (in two boxes) to the Ministry of Justice;
On 2 July 2021, we found out that the Ministry of Justice had initiated a review of our activities for compliance with the legislation and requested to provide a number of documents by 9 July 2021 (as a result, we got 1,124 sheets placed in two boxes; the letter was dated as of 22 June 2021, we received it on 02 July 2021);
On 21 June 2021, the Ecohome NGO celebrated its 25th anniversary.