Vitsebsk officials ban Constitution Day rally
An event applied for by Vitsebsk opposition activists Khrystafor Zhaliapau and Aliaksei Haurutsikau was scheduled for March 15. It was expected to highlight the rights enshrined in the Constitution of Belarus.
However, their request submitted to the Pershamaiski district administration was rejected.
"Our bid was once again rejected under a traditional pretext. We failed to submit agreements to maintain the picket together with the application. This is a constant problem because neither the police nor the central city hospital agrees to cooperate. For officials to know that we seek to enter into a contract, the copies of letters to these bodies are attached to our applications. However, both the regional department of Ministry of Internal Affairs and the doctors turned down our statements again. The doctors wrote that there was still plenty of time until March 15, and they could not promise us that on the day there would be an ambulance on duty. The police sent a standard runaround reply that they would consider our proposal only after the authorities allowed the event. Basically, they operate within the law on the organization of mass events, and they are right. But we, the applicants, are required to observe decision No. 881 by Vitsebsk city executive committee, according to which agreements are required in advance,” says Aliaksei Haurutsikau, activist of the organizing committee of the Social Democratic Party "Narodnaya Hramada".
The city executive committee’s decision directly states that applicants must submit contracts with the Interior Ministry’s regional department, local housing service and the city's clinic. This should be done no later than 15 days before the planned rally. However, the doctors say that they do not like it, and that their plans may be corrected only 5 days before a certain date. This position makes it impossible to use the legislation to implement the rights of citizens, says local coordinator of the Movement "For Freedom" Khrystafor Zhaliapau, "We must go to the authorities 15 days ahead of the event, and the doctors say it should be five days, and the law on mass events does not work for them, and the executive committee’s decision, too, although it is specified that events should be maintained by representatives of this particular clinic. It is even funnier with the regional department of Internal Affairs. Under the executive committee’s decision No. 881, we must apply there, but the police chiefs insist that it is a regional structure and they are not obliged to obey the executive committee’s decision!"
Vitsebsk activists have repeatedly asked the authorities to amend the almost impossible decision of the city executive officials. But all they receive are refusals, saying that it has passed a legal expertise and therefore it is perfect from the point of compliance with the law. Then the activists decided to use a different strategy - to apply for rallies more than 2 months ahead of the scheduled date. During this time, the activists expect to initiate lawsuits to force in this way responsible agencies to cooperate. And if they win in court, they expect to still have time to submit the application again.
However, this situation is abnormal, as the citizens are forced to work out a complex of moves to realize their constitutional rights to freedom of public expression, instead of taking advantage of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution, say A. Haurutsikau and K. Zhaliapau. Especially when it relates to an event on the Constitution Day.