Friday, March 24, 2023
Opinion Page: NGO Crackdowns Are Spreading, In Both Dictatorships And Democracies
From WorldCrunch, March 8, 2023:
“It just so happens that people who value freedom the most are often deprived of it.”
These words from Belarusian human rights advocate Ales Bialiatski upon being awarded the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize strike an extra bitter chord now: last Friday a Minsk court sentenced him to 10 years in prison. Founder and chair of Viasna, a Minsk-based non-governmental organization (NGO), Bialiatski had been arrested in July 2021 alongside two of his colleagues for “financing of group actions grossly violating the public order.” The charges were denounced as politically motivated by U.N. human rights experts.
Belarus strongman Alexander Lukashenko has earned a reputation for its hostility towards human rights organizations and opposition groups. But crackdowns and criminalization of NGOs are not unique to Belarus — indeed, they’re not even limited just to authoritarian regimes. In democracies, too, NGOs are increasingly targeted by political authorities.
“Governments all over the world are increasingly trying to create a hostile environment for NGOs. This is not new, but the situation has definitely worsened over the past few years,” said Justine Lavarde and Clara Ferrerons Galeano, officers at the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, an independent monitoring body founded in 1997 by the International Federation for Human Rights and the World Organization Against Torture.