COPENHAGEN, 28 November 2012 – Matteo Mecacci, chair of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly human rights committee, today expressed deep concern over the confiscation of property and closing off of the Viasna office in Minsk

"Viasna has been one of the few sources of independent information out of Belarus and a host to others seeking to improve the human rights situation in the country, exactly the type of activity that Belarus should welcome not close off. I deeply regret the government has closed this office, but hope their important work will continue," Mecacci said. "This week's action against Viasna adds to the decision made one year ago, when authorities sentenced Viasna's chairman, human rights activist Alex Bialatski, to prison on tax evasion charges."

Viasna has played an important role in keeping Belarusians and the international community informed about the human rights situation in the country where press freedom and freedom of expression remain minimal. The now-closed office had frequently served as a safe place for activists in Belarus to host press conferences about human rights violations or other activities.

"I am concerned that this decision will make it harder for Belarus to uphold its OSCE commitments," Mecacci said. "I call on the authorities to make concrete steps forward in this regard, starting at the OSCE Ministerial Council next week."

Mecacci, a Member of the Italian Parliament, led the OSCE election observation to Belarus this year and raised concerns about fundamental freedoms in the country at that time as he frequently has done from his position as chair of the OSCE PA Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions.