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Belarus: Protestant Church Ordered to Pay Damages

(Aug. 2, 2010) On July 29, 2010, the Minsk City Economic Court, in Belarus, ordered a church to pay compensation for environmental damage it allegedly caused in the city. The New Life Church (NLC), a Protestant congregation, was asked to pay the equivalent of US$83,000 due to damage caused by contamination from petroleum in the area of the group's prayer house. More than 3,000 square meters of topsoil were destroyed by the contamination. In addition, NLC was charged the equivalent of US$2,700 to reimburse the city department of the environment for litigation expenses. (Belarusian Court Orders Protestant Church to Pay Hefty Damages, BELAPAN (July 29, 2010), World News Connection online subscription database, Document No. 201007301477.1_aa99003dce65b716.)

Syarhey Lukanin, the attorney for NLC, described the decision as unfair and stated: “[o]fficers of the city environment department didn't invite New Life Church representatives to watch the taking of soil samples in early December 2009. We can't be sure that the samples came from our land and were excessively contaminated.” (Id.) He also pointed out that the church's land had previously been used by a farming collective and had been a dumping ground for solid waste, including old automobiles. While NLC will appeal the decision, it does not expect that action to be successful. (Id.)