Courts in Baranavichy and Salihorsk confirm bans on Human Rights Day pickets
The Salihorsk District Court has dismissed an appeal filed by local human rights activist Leanid Markhotka against a ban imposed by the district executive committee on a picket scheduled for the Human Rights Day, December 10. The case was considered by Judge Ala Trafimchuk.
The trial lasted less than an hour. During this time, the judge heard the parties and made her decision that she pronounced after a break. However, the Judge refused to issue a copy of the decision. According to the human rights activist, he will be able to receive the document in three days, after which he promises to give a more detailed comment on the case.
However, Leanid Markhotka has already confirmed his intention to further appeal the decision. The human rights activist does not rule out that the case will be a strategic one and may result in a complaint to the United Nations Human Rights Committee.
A similar appeal has been heard by the Baranavichy City and District Court. Local human rights activist Siarhei Housha challenged a decision by the city executive committee, which banned a picket that was expected to mark the 66th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The case was considered by Judge Volha Apanovich.
At the very beginning, Siarhei Housha asked the judge to take into account the statements by local activists with evidence that the Baranavichy city executive committee had for several years violated the law “On Mass Events in Belarus”. The human rights activist explained to the court that the city authorities for many years illegally urged the applicants to enter into agreements with the police in order to maintain public order during mass events, and the police, in turn, demanded that the activists before signing a contract provided permission from the executive committee. In particular, he read an answer sent by local police chief Herasimovich to civil society activist Ryhor Hryk, which said that the Baranavichy City Department of Internal Affairs would sign a contract with him only after the officials authorized the picket. In addition to the above, Siarhei Housha also read a complaint to the prosecutor from Viktar Syrytsa, in which he asked the government official to oblige police Major Kulhavik to observe the decisions of the executive committee and to sign an agreement for the protection of public order during a rally on March 25, 2013.
However, the court did not take into account all requests from Siarhei Housha. In particular, the judge refused to attach to the case file a decision of the UN Human Rights Committee of 2012, which said that the Baranavichy city executive committee violated the rights to peaceful assembly of Siarhei Housha, Viktar Syrytsa and Viktar Meziak, and illegally prohibited them to hold a meeting.
But the most controversial was the city government’s decision regulating the order of holding events, which, according to Siarhei Housha does not correspond to the Council of Ministers’ decree.
This fact was confirmed by a representative of the city executive committee Sviatlana Paulovich, who showed in court a draft of a new decision on mass events, which, according to her, fully complied with the resolution of the Council of Ministers.
Therefore, the human rights defender asked the court to issue a separate ruling on illegal decisions of the executive committee. Mr. Housha also asked the court to prosecute officials of the city executive committee for the systematic failure to observe the Council of Ministers’ Decree. However, the judge ignored these demands.
Siarhei Housha also asked the court to cancel a decision by the executive committee to ban a rally dedicated to the 66th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Representatives of the city authorities, head of the ideology department Sviatlana Paulovich and head of the legal department Inna Dolmat, rejected Siarhei Housha’s claims. They told the court that the ban was legal, as the applicants did not indicate in their statement measures related to the protection of public order, health care and cleaning of the territory after the rally.
The human rights activist argued that the applicants had entered into an agreement with the housing department and the medical facility and attached these agreements to their application.
But the court traditionally sided with the executive committee and dismissed Siarhei Housha’s complaint.