Hrodna: holding a picket costs more than 23 million rubles
On 4 December the Leninski District Court of Hrodna considered a complaint of the Hrodna human rights defenders Viktar Sazonau, Uladzimir Khilmanovich and Raman Yurhel against the prohibition of the picket they intended to hold on 10 October, the World Day Against the Death Penalty, by the Hrodna City Executive Committee. The civil case was considered by Judge Volha Shumanskaya in the presence of the prosecutor Seuryna. The defendant was represented by the chief specialist of the Legal Department of the Executive Committee, Siarhei Tabulevich. Despite all the arguments of the applicants, the judge took the side of the executive power and dismissed the complaint of the human rights defenders.
Bear in mind that the Hrodna City Executive Committee demonstrated an extraordinary imagination by saying in its official response of 4 October that the applicants were required to report in writing whether fireworks and open fire would be used during the mass event. The officials also stated that the applicants would be unable to adequately comply with the necessary requirements of the current legislation of the Republic of Belarus to ensure safe conditions for carrying out the claimed mass activities and restore the order after its completion". At the trial it became clear what served as the basis for such a conclusion. There it was presented a written objection to a complaint by the defendants. According to the queries of the executive committee to various agencies (the Leninski District Police Department, Hrodna city ambulance station, and Hrodna city housing and communal service), the executive committee calculated that the applicants were to pay 23,324,000 200 rubles for the services during the picket. However, the human rights defenders weren't told about such calculations and this absurd sum before the trial.
At the trial it was stated that the work of as many as 31 policemen for five hours was needed to secure the public order during the picket, though the action's duration was just two hours and the stated maximal number of participants was ten people.
Viktar Sazonau, Uladzimir Khilmanovich and Raman Yurhel argued that their constitutional rights and the international undertakings of the Republic of Belarus were violated, though they complied with all the formal requirements in their application. However, the court refused to recognize the supremacy of the Constitution.
Viktar Sazonau: “The ban of the picket and the later objection presented by the executive committee convincingly prove that it is impossible to realize the constitutional rights here, as far as the bureaucratic red tape has reached the limit of absolute absurdity. Such cynicism of their executive committee and their evident anti-Belarusianism, since they do not even give answers in the language of the applicant, and their lawyer objects to recording our testimonies in Belarusian in the minutes of the trial, clearly show the nature of this power. It is aimed solely at repression instead of assisting citizens in exercising their rights.”
Raman Yurhel: "By its decision and its explanation in court the Hrodna City Executive Committee clearly showed discrimination against citizens on political grounds. It is virtually impossible to get permission to hold a mass event in our city, which is clearly confirmed by this trial.The officials and the judges ignore the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus and the international treaties. In this situation, we will certainly appeal the decision of the court and continue to seek justice in international courts."