Council of Ministers refuses to raise an legal issue at Constitutional Court on request of Vitsebsk residents
Several dozen residents of Vitsebsk have signed a collective letter to the Council of Ministers to contribute to change the regulation of the Vitebsk City Executive Committee №881 "On Mass Events in Vitsebsk" and initiate an appeal to the Constitutional Court to verify compliance of this document with the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus. The regional coordinator of the movement "For Freedom" Khrystafor received a refusal.
There it is stated that the Presidium of the Council of Ministers decided not to submit the request of the authors of a collective letter to the Constitutional Court. No explanations are offered for this decision. The activist also points that the Council of Ministers also failed to respond to another question:
"Since the adoption of regulation of the Vitsebsk City Executive Committee No. 881 in 2009, civil society activists haven't received permission for a single picket, rally or procession. The matter is that the local authorities demand that the organizers supply their applications for mass events with service contracts with police officers, public utilities and the ambulance. However, these institutions evade from entering into such contracts in any way possible. As a rule, the regional police department answers that they would be guided by the law “On Mass Events”, not by the regulation of the city executive committee, which requires the prior conclusion of contracts."
Lawyer Aliaksei Haurutsikau, an activist of the organizing committee of the Party "Narodnaya Hramada", says:
"We hoped that the Council of Ministers will make amendments to the regulation of the city executive committee at least in order to bring it in line with its own decree. There is a special resolution on the relationship of citizens with the police. And in the case of the organization of mass actions this ordinance provides for such a mechanism: the citizen appeals to local authorities to bid to picket or rally, and then the authorities inform the police so that the latter would enter into a service agreement with the organizers of the event. However, the Vitsebsk City Executive Committee ordered the citizens to apply to the police personally, that's why there is no wonder they receive answers “we will enter into the service agreement after coming to an agreement with the local authorities."
Having evaded from giving a substantial answer, the Council of Ministry seems to have forwarded the address to the Ministry of Justice: Khrystafor Zhaliapau has received a letter from there as well.
The letter states that local authorities are free to set the order of applying for a permit for street actions. The only thing confirmed by the Ministry of Justice is that in different regions the order provided by the authorities is different. According to the results of the study of this issue by Mr. Haurutsikau, about half of the local administrations require prior service agreements with the police, whereas the other half require such agreements after giving preliminary agreement for such events.
"The letter from the Justice Ministry says only that it would be nice to make some changes and more precise wording in the law on mass events. But nothing is said whether the Ministry will initiate these changes," says Aliaksei Haurutsikau.
Representatives of the Vitsebsk public circles first appealed to the Council of Ministers asking it to order the city executive committee to amend its regulation. All earlier attempts to initiate this process were fruitless: all state agencies answered that the regulation passed juridical examination and was approved, which meant that there were no defects in it.
At present Vitsebsk activists are considering the possibility of appealing directly to Aliaksandr Lukashenka, as far as the Presidium of the Council of Ministers refuses to react to violations of its regulations. Moreover, violations have been registered all over the country. The campaign, launched by the Vitsebsk activists, has been joined by representatives of the regions and the whole social structures, such as the BPF Party and the movement "For Freedom". Aliaksei Haurutsikau and Khrystafor Zhaliapau also discuss the possibility of appealing directly to the Constitutional Court. Of course, appeals of private individuals aren't considered by it, but the court can pay attention to the issue and order the liquidation of the legal collision which prevents citizens from realizing their constitutional right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.