UN Human Rights Committee granted appeal of Siarhei Beliazeka
The UN Human Rights Committee considered the
appeal of Vitsebsk activist Siarhei Beyazeka against unlawful actions of the
police and a court verdict for more than four years.
As a result the Committee recognized that the state violated the rights of the activist to peaceful assembly and public expression of thoughts. According to the decision, the Belarusian authorities are obliged to provide Mr Beliazeka with effective remedy and to reimburse the harm.
The authorities must inform the Committee about their actions concerning this case within 180 days.
Siairhei Beliazeka applied to the UN Human Rights Committee after he had exhausted all remedies on the national levels. The matter is that in October 2007 about 30 residents of Vitsebsk decided to arrange a civil funeral in the village of Paliai – athe place where in 1930-40s NKVD committed mass killings of innocent people. They also wanted to visit the cemetery where victims of Stalinism were buried.
Participants of the civil funeral gathered to honor the memory of those killed during Stalin's repressions and executions and install a cross on the place of the mass shootings. However, when they arrived to Paliai and began to unload components of the cross, which was necessary to hold together, wreaths, flowers, they were suddenly approached by law enforcement agencies. The head of the police group – deputy head of the Vitebsk District Police Department , Major Lilenka stated that the funeral was an unauthorized mass event – a picket, and proposed those the present people to disperse.
The people managed to hold the civil funeral in Paliai and then returned to their bus, to make similar actions in other places. However, they were prevented from getting to the cemetery near the villages of Varony and Koptsi.
Major Lilenka stated that he stopped the funeral and that all its participants were detained as participants in an unauthorized picket. The people were guarded to the Vitsebsk District Poice Department and charged with unauthorized picketing.
The following day they were tried. Five participants of the mournful event, including Siarhei Beliazeka, were found guilty under Article 23.34 of the Code of Administrative Offenses, "violation of the order of holding mass events". Siarhei Beliazeka was fined 620,000 rubles.
The activist tried to appeal to the Vitebsk Regional Court and the Supreme Court. But all his arguments – that the civil funeral is not a picket, but a Christian ritual, that its participants had no intention to organize a political, social or economic event and therefore they had not need to apply for a permit to the authorities, that the funeral didn't present any threat to the national security, public order, morality and health and didn't limit the rights and freedoms of other citizens – weren't taken into account by the courts. Belarusian Themis decided that the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and international obligations of the state, were not violated by the unlawful sentence.
And now, more than four years after the events described, the UN Human Rights Committee disproved the opinion of the Belarusian courts: by the intervention of peaceful assembly the authorities illegally deprived citizens of the civil right to a peaceful assembly and public expression of their views. As far as Belarus is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, it is required to restore the violated rights and to take appropriate steps to avoid similar violations of civil rights in the future.