2009 11/04

7e4feaa1-588e-4175-898e-bd8598b95a82_w400_sAlena Zaleskaya was detained by the police and taken to Vitsebsk Kastrychnitski police department, where she was charged with violating Article 167-1 of the Belarusian Civil Code (‘violating the procedures of organizing and holding mass actions’). The case was considered by Judge Valiantsina Mikhasiova of Vitsebsk Kastrychnitski Court, who fined the woman BYR 620,000.
We believe that, the trial failed to prove that Mrs.Zaleskaya did take part in the demonstration. Moreover, we believe that two passers-by distributing the officially licensed Tavarysh newspaper cannot be considered a demonstration, since they had been licensed to do so, which was confirmed by the court.
The activists neither bore nor hung any flags or banners. Nor did they use any other propaganda materials that might attract the attention of passers-by, which was proven by video coverage provided by the police. Considering this, we claim that Judge Mikhasiova mistreated Mrs.Zaleskaya’s actions as an organized mass demonstration.
Since there was no intent to hold a mass action, there was no need for applying for that to the state bodies, which are authorized to allow or ban holding an action, or change its format and place.
The distribution of printed materials lasted for about ten minutes, after that the activists were arrested by the police. Due to their shortness, the distributors’ actions did not affect the interests of other citizens, nor did they damage any state property. No complaints against the activists were received by the city authorities.
However, the judge delivered a groundless, unfair and severe judgment, sentencing Mrs.Zaleskaya to a fine of BYR 620,000, which equals to her two-month’s retiring pension. At the same time, the law provides for a milder punishment in similar cases – warning. Apart from that, the court failed to consider the following circumstances: Mrs.Zaleskaya’s pension is her only source of income; Mrs.Zaleskaya’s age – 74; absence of any relatives in Vitsebsk. To protect her civil rights we attempted to appeal the verdict at Vitsebsk Regional Court and later at the Supreme Court of Belarus. However, the claims were turned down. The courts established that the Law on Mass Actions does not provide any definition for ‘a mass action.’ Under the law, it is not clear how many participants should constitute a demonstration. As a result, there exist some variants of treating the notion of ‘mass action.’ Thus, the Law on Mass Actions needs to be amended.
Having exhausted all the national remedies, Mrs.Zaleskaya was assisted in submitting a complaint to the UN Human Rights Committee, which was considered admissible and registered under #1604.

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *