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Lawtrend: We are proud of our two-decade work; we’ll celebrate when Elena Tonkacheva returns

12.07.2016  |  Society   |  EuroBelarus Information Service,  
Lawtrend: We are proud of our two-decade work; we’ll celebrate when Elena Tonkacheva returns

The Center for Legal Transformation “Lawtrend” celebrates its 20-year anniversary.

On July 7, 2016 the Center for Legal Transformation turned 20 years old. "Today you know Lawtrend as the Center for Legal Transformation, but it all started in 1996 when a team of like-minded people headed by Elena Tonkacheva created public association "Independent Society for Legal Research", says the Center’s anniversary statement.

"EuroBelarus" Information Service joins the greetings and offers its readers a conversation with the founders of Lawtrend.

Elena Tonkacheva, the chair of board of the Center for Legal Transformation “Lawtrend”, is now forced to live and work in Vilnius - in October 2014 the authorities notified her that her permanent residence permit in Belarus got canceled. According to the human rights community, the decision on a three-year ban on entry into the country is caused by Tonkacheva’s public activity. On February 21, 2015 the head of Lawtrend left Belarus.

"I certainly want to congratulate my colleagues on the fact that the organization, which we started 20 years ago, can today be proud of a great number of important things that we did, - said in the interview with the EuroBelarus Information Service the chair of board of Lawtrend Elena Tonkacheva. – Today we have more than three hundred graduates of Lawtrend educational programs on human rights issues. Let me say without false modesty that at least a third of the civil society organizations in Belarus was registered and created with our direct legal assistance. Neither we should forget the work of Lawtrend on the alternative civil service law: the fact that such institution has appeared in our country is our merit, too. For many years we have been working with the issues of access to legal aid for vulnerable groups. Representatives of Lawtrend are authors of researches, books that now can be found on the shelves of legal departments of Belarusian universities across the country."

Elena Tonkacheva emphasizes that Lawtrend “is able to concentrate and switch to hard challenges": "December 19, 2010 – already at night - we put aside everything else and got engaged in monitoring arrests and, later, courts. As a result, we have absolutely authentic, documented materials, which will be relevant when the country will come to the point of trial on the December events."

"For many years now we somehow always managed to find a deep interest and love for what we do – despite hard times in the life of our organization… I want to say today that I’m happy and proud that many years of my life are associated with this work and with such people", - Elena Tonkacheva said.

Director of “Lawtrend” Volha Smalianka emphasizes: "One of our great successes is that we’ve survived despite all the challenges. 20 years of life for the organization - is a long time. Lawtrend faced different periods – both the time of flourishing, as well as not very fortunate times. We were forcibly eliminated twice, Elena Tonkacheva was deported from the country, but we stayed and we are the team. "

If we talk about luck, then, "of course, we would like to see more results of our twenty-year work; but, unfortunately, human rights work in Belarus doesn’t give very quick results." "But we are working for the future, - Volha Smalianka said. - We formed a very good expertise and legal potential. We have extensive experience in the development of regulations; for example, we developed the law on charity, participated in the preparation of a number of other regulations, initiated the elaboration of an alternative civilian service of drafting legislation, there is success in the field on the settlement activities of non-governmental organizations."

"We decided not to celebrate the anniversary grandly. The greatest gift for us would be a decision to lift the ban on Elena Tonkacheva’s entry in her own country, all the more that the internal affairs authorities may, take such a decision at any time. We will celebrate the anniversary after Elena returns,"- Volha Smalianka said.

"All these 20 years were hard times; but personally for me this time was interesting professionally, so to say, I grew up with the organization – there have always been some challenges, new personal responsibilities, new competencies, - says Lawtrend expert Galina Cherepok. - Together with the problems that have often appeared in Lawtrend, we also acquired experience. We have been discussing everything; we have always agreed on solutions. It might have been this what allowed us to survive during these 20 years. The celebration of the 20th anniversary of Lawtrend is impossible without Elena; but I hope her comeback will take place very soon; at least I hope that we won’t have to wait for February 2018".

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