2009 13/04

Barys Khamaida

Barys Khamaida

Barys Khamaida was detained on 7 July 2007 (birthday of the People’s Poet of Belarus Yanka Kupala) in downtown Vitsebsk as he was holding a poster with the poet’s verse written on it. He was taken to Vitsebsk Chyhunachny Police Department and charged with violating Article 23.34 of the Civil Code (violating procedures of holding mass actions and pickets). On the same day, Mr.Khamaida’s case was considered by Judge Bardziukova of Vitsebsk Chyhunachny Court. As a result of the trial, the activist was fined BYR 310,000.
Under Article 2 of the Belarusian Law on Mass Actions, ‘picketing is a public expression by a citizen or by a group of citizens of public and political, group or individual and other interests or the protest (without a procession), including by a hunger-strike, on any problems with the usage or without usage of posters, transparencies and other means.’
During the trial, Mr.Khamaida’s defense lawyers claimed that the activist’s actions did not fall under the provisions of the Law, since the demonstration of the verse did not cause ‘substantial harm to rights and legal interests of citizens, organizations or state or public interests – a failure of mass action, temporal termination of activity of organizations or violation of transport traffic, death of people, causing a severe physical injury to one or several victims.’
Under Article 33 of the Belarusian Constitution, ‘everyone is guaranteed freedom of thoughts and beliefs and their free expression.’
Part 2 of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that ‘everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.’
Considering the above-mentioned legal acts, we believe that Barys Khamaida’s actions failed to possess the essential elements of a crime.
Having exhausted all domestic remedies, Mr.Khamaida wrote a complaint and submitted it to the UN Human Rights Committee, which is currently being considered to establish whether the claim meets the formal requirements of admissibility.

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