2010 27/01
Жодзінскі гарадзкі суд

Zhodzina town court

On 27.01.2010 from 10-00 to 11-30 Zhodzina Town Court held the last hearing on the protection of the right to peaceful assembly in Zhodzina, where over the past 9 years, not a single mass event, applied for by the citizens, human rights activists or non-governmental organizations and political actors, was permitted.

The court sessions was held by Deputy Chair of the Court Judge Tatsiana Tratsiuk. The executive committee was represented by lawyer Volha Verhel.

Aliaksei Lapitski, who represented the applicant and sought to achieve recognition by the court of the illegality of the executive committee’s decision to ban a peaceful picketing scheduled for 10.12.2010, presented the court with evidence of the systemic character of such prohibitions, as well as the ways to deliver replies to the applicants from the executive committee in an envelope on which there were no post office seals with the dates of receiving and sending mail.

In the disputes, the human rights activist once again drew the attention of the court to Art. 23 of the Constitution which defines the admissible criteria for restricting the right, to appropriate standards in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Optional Protocol thereto, the authority of the UN HRC, and the binding effect of its views on individual complaints against violations of civil and political rights in the member countries of this international agreement. In this regard, he referred to comment number 33 by the UN Human Rights Committee, which specifically emphasized the binding effect of regulations issued by the UN Human Rights Committee and views submitted to the governments.

In the context of law enforcement practice in Belarus and the systematic violations of human rights to peaceful assembly and to freedom of dissemination of information (Art. 21 and Art. 19 of the ICCPR) he compared the approaches and demands of international and constitutional standards of law, the criteria of admissibility of restrictions of the law, adheres to by the UN HRC, with the approaches and absolutely improper motivation that result endless prohibitions of peaceful activities by the executive power in Zhodzina and throughout the country.

In his speech, the lawyer of the executive committee Volha Verhel again noted that the applicants did not pay the expenses of the police, medical and housing services. She also focused on the fact that the ideological office of the executive committee did not see from the application anyone responsible for conducting of the applied picketing and whether the applicants had undertaken the obligation to carry out the activities without violating the law.

In response, Aliaksei Lapitski noted that any additional restriction of the constitutional rights (to peaceful assembly among others) may not be legal, as are the additional requirements of any payment to the state budgetary institutions by the applicants or non-profit organizations, who are actually forced to do such misconduct. At the same time, he asked the representative of the executive committee to give him an explanation on the costs and the rates of the services provided by the police, medical service and the housing department during peaceful picketing, which did not require any special safety and security measures, or health maintenance or cleanup.

The request was not met by the representative of the government. Which caused no surprise of the human rights activist. The latter only noted that it was impossible to demand from the applicants any guarantees of payment of the amount, that no one can estimate, which is not suggested by the approved price list. And even if such documents were developed and existed in reality, they would become the subject of study as evidence of misconduct by officials of the budgetary institutions.

Moreover, if the applicants have any conviction and that for the realization of their guaranteed constitutional rights they should not pay any additional costs, any denial of the right to peaceful assembly with a reference to this fact is an attempt to force to abandon beliefs that naturally can be neither legitimate nor lawful…

Therefore, any further requirements for such a payment are a purposeful and systematic economic blackmail and harassment and unlawful additional restriction of freedom of peaceful assembly of the opponents of the current political regime in Belarus.

As it turned out in the disputes, organizations like the BRSM (Belarusian Republican Youth Union) did not face any bans on holding public events in Zhodzina, because they generally would not file an application (all is solved centrally through the youth department of the executive committee). In this sense, the signs of discrimination against citizens who are not members of such pro-ideological formations, on political, national, linguistic … ideological grounds are obvious. No wonder the draft decision (which, as it turned out, always becomes the final decision) is produced by the ideological department of the local executive committee.

Later in the process the attention of the court was again drawn to the fact that the law did not explain in what form, either in a separate paragraph in the application, or on a separate sheet or two, the organizers’ guarantees should be prepared and submitted. And if the submission of the guarantees ion a special sheet in case when the application is filed by an organization and the obligations are undertaken by other persons is fairly obvious, in case of application by the citizens it can understood as if they as organizers can only add to the application a paragraph in which they would state appropriate guarantees.

Apart from all the above-mentioned facts, attention was once again focused on the fact that if the ideological department of the executive committee decided to ignore their own ideological expediency (which works for the current political regime) and began to consider the application under the requirements of law, then there would be no questions. In the worst case, within the 15 days (required by the law for the submission of the application), provided there were questions, goodwill and elementary communication with the applicants – all the technical issues could be agreed upon, coordinated and solved (as they used to be decide back in 2000 and 2001).

After the necessary procedures, Zhodzina Court ruled to dismiss the claim for recognition as illegal of the decisions of Zhodzina executive committee on the prohibition of peaceful picketing, applied for before the International Day of Human Rights (10.12.2009) at an authorized and specially organized location in Zhodzina.

Аляксей Лапіцкі, Жодзіна

Alaksiej Lapicki, Zhodzina

Aliaksei Lapitski said: “Of course it is a pity that this time Zhodzina court’s ideological expediency once again proved to be more important than the law … of course we will appeal this decision in cassation and with due respect to the statements made in the courtroom – to carry out a strategic litigation to change the existing practice and legislation in the country and to bring them in accordance with the Constitutional provisions and generally accepted international standards regarding the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of expression and free dissemination of information.”

Zhodzina court decision from 27.01.2010 (rus.)

Ales Volny,

Belarusian Legal Portal,


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