Homel opposition activist files complaint to UN Human Rights Committee
Homel pro-democratic activist Kanstantsin Zhukouski submitted on October 22 a complaint to the UN Human Rights Committee. He believes that the Belarusian government violated his right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of expression (Article 19 and 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights).
The activist argues that these rights were violated by Homel city executive committee, as it banned a picket scheduled by the activist for April 1. The picket was expected to draw public attention to the problem of upcoming destruction of unique wooden buildings in central Homel.
However, the city authorities refused to allow a picket, saying that the mass event could not be held in the location requested by Mr. Zhukouski. Besides, the activists failed to sign agreements with the police, medical and public community services (as required by a decision of the executive committee).
The applicant appealed against the refusal of the picket in courts: first, in the district, then – in the regional and the Supreme Court. But that did not help. So, having exhausted all domestic remedies, Kanstantsin Zhukouski submitted a complaint to the UN Human Rights Committee.
In his individual complaint, he points out that at the time of the planned rally the city of Homel, having a population of nearly 500,000 people, had only one location authorized for purposes such as public events. Moreover, in order to hold a picket, one should also enclose agreements with the special services. “The practice of application of this decision has resulted in the violation of my rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression," writes the activist.
He asks to advise the Belarusian government to bring the national legislation in line with the country’s international obligations.
"Belarusian officials refuse to recognize the rights and freedoms of its citizens guaranteed by the Constitution and international instruments ratified by Belarus. For example, over the past ten years, Homel region authorities have not allowed a single peaceful assembly. Meanwhile, there have been over 200 applications for rallies and pickets - and not a single permit. Today we can say that in our country, the very essence of everyone’s right to peaceful assembly has been destroyed, and as a result – the right to freedom of expression", says human rights activist Leanid Sudalenka, who assisted the activist in preparing the complaint.