The UN Human Rights Committee has ordered Belarusian authorities to return the six computers and two printers seized from opposition politician Viktar Karnyayenka in 2001 by KGB officers.
Hramadzyanskiya Initsyyatyvy (Civil Initiatives), a Homyel-based regional NGO led by Mr. Karnyayenka, had trained about 300 people to observe the 2001 presidential election and was to use the equipment for processing their reports.
Mr. Karnyayenka was accused of misusing the equipment provided to his organization as gratuitous foreign aid and was fined an equivalent of $615.
In 2003, Civil Initiatives was closed by a court decision at the request of the justice ministry.
In its reply to Mr. Karnyayenka's complaint, the UN Human Rights Committee notes that the equipment posed no threat to anyone, and that its seizure was unfounded and constituted a violation of freedom of association and Mr. Karnyayenka's right to obtain and distribute information and participate in state affairs.
The Committee says that the authorities should return the seized computer to Mr. Karnyayenka, pay him $615 in compensation for the fine and bring the presidential decree governing the use of gratuitous foreign aid into conformity with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
In November 2006, the UN Human Rights Committee concluded that the closure of Civil Initiatives had been inconsistent with Belarus' international commitments. The justice ministry never implemented the Committee's recommendation to restore legal status for the organization.