Vitsebsk authorities ban picket set to mark Lukashenka’s birthday
A request for the event was submitted to the Kastrychnitski district administration of Vitsebsk by local blogger Ihar Pastnou, famous for his criticism of health care officials. He fulfilled all the requirements that are prescribed by the decision of the City Executive Committee “On Mass Events in Vitsebsk”, but failed to receive permission.
A letter from the district administration says that the applicant has not fully implemented the requirements of the Executive Committee’s decision No. 881. According to Ihar Pastnou, who did all that was required of him. He applied for an event, but was faced with a long-standing problem of the organizers of mass events – mismatching of requirements of the executive committee with the real situation.
“The applicant must submit to the district administration maintenance contracts signed by housing, health care and police authorities. I contacted all these agencies, but only received a positive response from the public utilities: the “Zelianhas” enterprise, which is responsible for cleaning the urban territory, has signed a contract with me. The clinic’s answer was rather strange – they said that they were not engaged in the organization of events, even though I did not ask them to organize anything. I was advised to go to the district administration – they said it is them who are in charge of the events. They forwarded me back to where I was supposed to submit a contract. The reply from the police was even more surprising: they wrote that they were securing public order in any capacity without any contracts, as it’s their professional duty. Thus, I could not establish cooperation with the clinic and the police, which are mentioned in the decision of the Executive Committee as the other side to enter into a contract. But there is no fault of mine, I did everything that is written in the decision on the organization of events,” said Ihar Pastnou.
He was going to stage a one-man picket by displaying a banner “Thank Batska for our happy life!”. In addition, the poster was going to feature a picture of his paysheet with the amount of his salary, as well as photos of the wards in Vitsebsk hospitals.
This idea obviously could not be favored by the district administration. But the action was not banned on ideology grounds, but for formal reasons. The same reasons that in the past few years have been periodically used to prevent other Vitsebsk activists from staging their protests – on the basis of lack of contracts with doctors, police and utilities services.
The activist have yet been unable to prove, either through the courts or during meetings with government officials or otherwise, that the decision of the Executive Committee is not feasible, since it is the said services that do not wish to enter into agreements with the activists. For example, two months ago, several dozen residents of the regional center signed a collective letter to the Council of Ministers urging the government to contribute to amending decision No. 881 “On Mass Events in Vitsebsk” of the Vitsebsk city executive committee and to initiate an appeal to the Constitutional Court in order to verify compliance of the document with the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus. But the Council of Ministers rejected the appeal without explanation. The regional coordinator of the Movement “For Freedom” Khrystafor Zhaliapau, who was refused as the initiator of the petition, received another letter from the Ministry of Justice. It says that local authorities are free to establish the procedure of applying for a permit for street protests. Therefore, in different regions regulations set by the authorities may differ, and that it’s worth making some changes and more precise wording to the law on mass events. However, the Ministry did not say if it was going to initiate these changes. And as yet, for five years straight, Vitsebsk residents have not been able to exercise their rights to public expression and freedom of peaceful assembly.