Rights of Baranavichy activists violated, says UN Human Rights Committee
“The Human Rights Committee, acting under article 5, paragraph 4, of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, is of the view that the facts before it disclose a violation by Belarus of article 19 and article 21 of the Covenant,” says the UN Human Rights Committee in its Views adopted on July 27, 2012, as a response to the complaint submitted by Baranavichy pro-democratic activists Siarhei Housha, Viktar Syrytsa and Viktar Meziak.
In their complaint, the activists appealed a ban on holding a meeting “For the free, independent and prosperous Belarus” on September 10, 2006. On September 4, 2006, the Baranavichy City Executive Commttee denied the authorization to organize the meeting, on the ground that a meeting on the similar subject had already taken place in the City Executive Committee’s premises on March 15, 2006.
The ban was appealed to the Court of Baranavichy District and of Baranavichy City and the Judicial Chamber for Civil Cases of the Brest Regional Court. However, their complaints were dismissed. Thus, the activists exhausted all available domestic remedies in the attempt to exercise their right of peaceful assembly, guaranteed by article 35 of the Constitution.
“The Committee observes that the State party has failed to demonstrate, despite having been given an opportunity to do so, why the restrictions imposed on the authors' rights of freedom of expression and assembly, even if based on a law and a municipal decision, were necessary, for one of the legitimate purposes of article 19, paragraph 3, and the second sentence of article 21 of the Covenant. Accordingly, the Committee concludes that the facts as submitted reveal a violation, by the State party, of the authors' rights under article 19 and article 21 of the Covenant,” says the Committee’s decision.
The Committee further notes that “the State party is under an obligation to provide the authors with an effective remedy, including reimbursement of the legal costs incurred by them and compensation. The State party is also under an obligation to take steps to prevent similar violations in the future. In this connection, the State party should review its legislation, in particular the Law on Mass Events, and its application, to ensure its conformity with the requirements of article 19 and article 21 of the Covenant.”