March 20, 1997

Dear Mr. Soros,

We, the authorized representatives of the Belarusian Assembly of Democratic NGO's, which unites 250 local NGO's, would like to inform you of our attitude towards the illegal deportation of the Belarusian Soros Foundation’s executive director Peter Byrne by Belarusian authorities, and the repression being waged against this charitable organisation.

Mr. Byrne’s deportation and the illegal "presidential inspections" into the activities of the BSF and other foundations, independent research centres, and non-governmental organisations which followed it, are completely unsubstantiated. They are an overt and vulgar show of strength by Lukashenko’s dictatorial regime, and are aimed at suffocating any hints at democracy or free-thinking which appear in the Republic of Belarus.

The blow suffered by the Soros Foundation is a blow to democracy, freedom, and the values of an open, pluralist society, as well as a challenge to all honest people of Belarus.

We represent a wide variety of non-governmental organisations operating in the fields of education, culture, ecology, health education, and the defence of Human Rights and the media. The Belarusian Soros Foundation and its executive director were doing everything possible to support our initiatives and strengthen civil society institutions. Many people are aware of the charitable work done by the BSF to assist Belarusian doctors, teachers, and scientists when the state was incapable of guaranteeing normal professional conditions and a decent standard of living for them.

We are expressing our sincere gratitude to you and the OSI Board, and hope that you will make every possible effort to see that justice is done at this difficult time, and return Peter Byrne, a man respected and trusted by many people in Belarus, to his post.

Yours sincerely,

The members of the working group of
the Belarusian Assembly of Democratic NGO's

(25 signatures have been gathered in support of this statement)

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