UN Human Rights Committee registers another complaint from Belarus
The UN Human Rights Committee has registered a complaint by a resident of the village of Buyany, Vitsebsk region, Leanid Zdrestau. The activist had to appeal to the international body for protection after the authorities did not authorize his picket, and all the courts where he was trying to appeal the ban, from the Kastrychnitski District Court of Vitsebsk to the Supreme Court of the Republic of Belarus – sided with the authorities.
The purpose of the picket, which was never staged as a result of the ban, was informing the residents of the Vitsebsk region of systematic violations by the state bodies and organizations of the Republic of Belarus of his rights and legitimate interests. The picket was banned by deputy head of administration of Kastrychnitski district Viktar Halanau on the grounds that the organizer of the rally had not concluded agreements with the public utilities, police and healthcare departments, as required by the Vitsebsk City Executive Committee in its decision No. 881 of July 10, 2009 entitled “On Mass Events in the City of Vitsebsk”.
It should be noted that the picket was expected to be staged by one person only. Leanid Zdrestau is convinced that a single picket in its practical and legal sense cannot be viewed as a mass event, so the ban on the basis of the law on mass events is nonsense. Nevertheless, the Belarusian courts ignored the argument.
Leanid Zdrestau is not the first resident of the Vitsebsk region, who was unable to defend his rights in the courts and eventually wrote to the UN Human Rights Committee after local authorities banned a peaceful assembly. Typically, in such cases the Committee supports the applicants and finds that the authorities have violated their right to impart information and public expression of their views. In its decisions in such cases, the HRC stresses the need to take measures to prevent such violations of human rights in the future.
However, Belarusian officials pay no attention to the HRC decisions. The Vitsebsk City Executive Committee’s decision, which for nearly five years has allowed local authorities to ban all events of the opposition and civil society activists, is unlikely to be repealed. Nobody is going to amend the Law “On Mass Events”, which gives local authorities the right to arbitrarily prohibit citizens to organize peaceful rallies and publicly express their opinion, which is incompatible with the principles of democracy.