On October 21, 2021, in Geneva, at the 7th Meeting of the Parties to the Aarhus Convention, the Decision on Belarus which recognized the liquidation of Ecohome as a case of persecution and harassment of NGOs was adopted.
Ecohome has been promoting the Aarhus Convention for many years and was also the communicant of the communications to the Compliance Committee of the Aarhus Convention, including those related to pressure and persecution on environmental activists.
The Decision not only recognizes the liquidation of the organization as a violation of the Convention but also provides for the suspension of rights and privileges under the Convention for Belarus if the country does not take steps to restore the registration of Ecohome by December 1, 2021. The suspension will enter into force on February 01, 2022.
Throughout the whole meeting, the participants tried to find a compromise to resolve this issue, but to no avail. This is the first time in the history of the Convention when all attempts to reach a consensus have been exhausted and the parties had to resort to a vote.
Thus, FOR the Decision voted: 27 EU countries, Georgia, Iceland, Montenegro, Norway, Switzerland, Serbia, Great Britain.
AGAINST — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia and Belarus.
ABSTAINED — Moldova.
In total, 34 out of 39 supported this Decision and called on Belarus to cancel the decision on liquidation of the NGO «Ecohome».
Besides, this is the first time in the history of the Aarhus Convention that one of the communicants with the Compliance Committee has been liquidated. The Aarhus Convention celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.
“Making a decision on Belarus with important conclusions and recommendations really shows commitment to the spirit of environmental democracy. And this is certainly important, both for individuals and organizations, and for promoting the principles of the Convention itself. Thus, we recognize that the fate of persons exercising environmental rights is extremely significant and the Convention contributes to their protection,” — said the director of the Ecohome Marina Dubina in her closing remarks.
The Aarhus Convention is a convention of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe “On Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters”.
The purpose of the Convention is to support the protection of human rights to a favourable environment for their health and well-being, access to information, public participation in environmental decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters. The Convention entered into force for Belarus on October 30, 2001.