2016 14/04

Any Belarusian, at least a little interested in social and political affairs of the country, could many times hear the news about the arrest for violating the order of organizing or holding mass events (Art. 23.34 of the Administrative Code).

Moreover, sometimes people were detained for completely harmless actions: as it was, for example, with activists who organized collective sledding in Slonim and a  bright collective cycling (see photo above).

If you want to gather to express your social and political views, you should be guided by the provisions of the Law “On Mass Events in the Republic of Belarus” (hereinafter – the Law). It describes the procedure for approval of a mass event, order of consideration of your application by public authorities, the procedures, the requirements for public safety and so on. Due to the fact that recently, the Law is only available for a fee, you can download the actual text at the end of this article dated by April 14, 2016.

After reading the text of the law, you will learn that to organize mass events you will need:

- To be a citizen of the Republic of Belarus;

- During the previous year not to have violated the order of organization or holding mass events;

- To apply to the local executive committee (indicating the purpose, type of mass event, place, sources of funding, etc., in accordance with Article 5 of the Law.);

- To apply at least 15 days prior to the date of the assembly;

- Pay for police services, health care workers and cleaners not later than 10 days after the event;

- Not to declare about the event before getting a permission.

Also, be aware that even if you have completed all the requirements, you can still get a refusal, because the final decision is taken by the executive committee.

Moreover, if you are still allowed to organize an event, you, as an organizer, will have to meet a long list of requirements. It is too long to list them in the article, so you can get familiar with them in the Articles 10-12 of the Law. In spite of the fact that you have paid for police services, you would still have to ensure the order of mass event and security of citizens

And it is for violation of these provisions you can be brought to administrative responsibility in accordance with the art.23.34 of the Code of Administrative Offences of the Republic of Belarus up to 15 days of arrest.

 

Practical application

 

So many people in Belarus were brought to administrative responsibility under this article.

Besides the cyclists mentioned above many others were brought to responsibility: stuffed animals with their owners, journalists who made photos with a teddy bear, mothers with children, who were holding posters against death penalty, the first participants of silent protests in 2011, for an excursion, for organizing a charity dinner.

 

It is not necessary to be a lawyer, to understand after reading all these articles that the Law is applied very widely, and in respect of a large number of cases.

 

 

Compliance of the Law with international standards

Журналістка Ірына Козьлік

On March 20, 2012 the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights in cooperation with the Venice Commission made a conclusion on the compliance of the Law with international standards.

In particular, this conclusion contains the following:

“Law on Mass Events is characterized by an excessive detailed regulation of procedural aspects of meetings. The law creates a difficult fulfillment order of tough and time-consuming procedures for obtaining permits, and at the same time leaves the greatest freedom of action for administrative bodies to implement the Law. This procedure does not reflect the state’s positive obligation to ensure and promote the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of expression”.

After fixing 119 points experts came to the following conclusions:

1. Engage the key principle of the presumption in favor of holding assemblies by abolishing the existing system of requesting authorization from the authorities to hold meetings and by replacing it with a system based on the principle of a meeting notice;

2. Review all the Law provisions on the automatic prohibitions, including provisions relating to the time and place of peaceful assembly and to provide in the Law the possibility of spontaneous assemblies, simultaneous assemblies and counter-demonstrations;

3. Provide a clear definition of the meeting in accordance with international standards, and to ensure that the definition does not exclude certain types of meetings;

4. To ensure the use by all the people of their right to freedom of assembly in Belarus. The law should provide the exercise of this right by citizens and non-citizens, by all categories of people, including minors, and migrants; and all of these categories of persons shall use the right to freedom of peaceful assembly not only as participants but also as organizers and others.

Taking into account the sovereignty of States, the ODIHR and the Venice Commission does not suggest the wording of the law itself, allowing our state to change the law on their own.

The theme of freedom of assembly is probably one of the most developed themes in the field of international human rights law.

The basic document for changes in this area for Belarus could become the “Guidelines on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly“, prepared by the ODIHR and the Venice Commission. These are the best practices of countries in the issue of freedom of assembly control, based on the experience of countries in the OSCE region.

If you read this document, you will find a large number of discrepancies.

In particular, in Belarus you can not organize a spontaneous meeting (you need to wait 15 days for your appeal to be reviewed). Counter-demonstrations which are usually a normal manifestation of social life are also impossible in Belarus.

If the state is obliged to protect our rights, why do we have to pay for the police service, and why our paying taxes is not enough?

And the principle of appeal’s approval itself is placed in doubt in this document.

Why do we have to ask permission from the government?

Reconciliation of some moments – yes, but not the permission!

Practice of the UN Committee on Human Rights requires a special attention – quasi court authority acting under the first Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Belarus signed and ratified this pact and the first protocol, which makes it at least listen to the decisions of this body.

So, among all the Committee’s decisions in which it finds violations of the rights of the citizens of the Republic of Belarus, a huge number of violations is of right to freedom of assembly.

One of the most recent decisions (Eng.) is the case of Sudalenka vs. Belarus (2016-2010), in which the Committee found violations of the rights to freedom of assembly and expression.

Leanid Sudalenka simply asked to allow him to make a meeting in the main square of Homiel, not on the outskirts on the Day of Human Rights.

And one can count more than a dozen such decisions in relation to Belarus.

Disappointing is the fact that Belarus completely refuses to meet its obligations under the international treaty.

 

Why is the Law still like this?

 

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The Law has been changed for 11 times in the history of Belarus’s independence.

And if you compare the dates of the changes and the political events that took place in the country that time, you can come to the conclusion that the law was changed due to the political situation, and what is fairly obvious – always in the direction of restrictions on freedom of assembly.

 

Michaś Mackievič

 

According to the author,

namely the existence of such a Law, with the same provisions is a deliberate restriction on freedom of citizens of the Republic of Belarus in order to prevent manifestations of protest moods in society. And, unfortunately, no measures taken by both internal and external actors of the political process will improve the law.

If this happens, it will be only under the conditions of an entirely different political system in Belarus.

 

ATTACHMENTS:

 

 

Mikhas Mackievich, Lawtrend member
graduate of BISH/EHREL ILIA program at the Belarusian HRH n.a. Barys Zvoskau,

specially for
Belarusian Legal Portal
Prepared by Ales LETA,
www.prava-by.info

Photo: Tut.by, NN.by

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