Salihorsk authorities ban Young Front bike ride
Salihorsk town executive officials have banned a bike ride marking the anniversary of the 1995 referendum that introduced new state symbols instead of the historical Pahonia coat of arms and the white-red-white flag.
The event was expected to be held by local activists of the Young Front opposition movement on 26 May.
The ban refers to alleged violations of Art. 8 and 11 of the Mass Events Code. The activists, in turn, argue that the decision is illegal and unconstitutional.
“The ban is an example of the typical double standard approach applied by the authorities. The local branch of the Belaya Rus pro-government association held a similar event on 5 May and its route coincided with that of our bike ride. However, when it is the Young Front that applies for holding an event, the officials ban it on purely political grounds,” says local Young Front activist Andrei Tychyna.
The ban is absolutely nonlegal, say local human rights defender Leanid Markhotka.
“Article 8 of the Mass Events Code is unconstitutional and contrary to Belarus’ international obligations in the field of human rights. It prohibits advertising the event in mass media and the Internet, which is total nonsense. It is illegal to ban the event for just mentioning its similarity to that by the Belaya Rus NGO,” says Salihorsk leader of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee Leanid Markhotka.
The officials’ reference to Art. 11 is groundless, as it does not specify which provision of the Code was violated by the applicants, says Mr. Markhotka. Apart from that, Art. 11 regulates the procedures for maintaining public order during the mass event; therefore, the arguments provided by the authorities violate the presumption of innocence principle.