Report on monitoring of the picket "For Fair and Free Elections" in Minsk on September 10
The picket of September 10, 2015 was of peaceful nature. The absence of an application for holding the mass event, as required by law, is not a reason to limit the freedom of peaceful assembly.
The fact of presenting administrative charges to Mikalai Statkevich can be regarded as interference in the mass event by the police, although we should note the good practice of drawing up the violation report on the sport instead of the physical detention of the person against whom the administrative proceedings are brought.
The main problems in the conduct of peaceful assemblies in the Republic of Belarus is related to the failure of the authorities to implement the positive duties: the police officers aren't designated properly, it is impossible to identify them and they don't secure demonstrators from their adversaries.
September 7, 2015, calls of Mikalai Statkevich to come to his picket at the entrance of the City Department Store (HUM) under the slogan “For Fair and Free Elections” at 6 p.m. on September 10 appeared in the public space.
September 8, 2015 Mikalai Statkevich was called for a talk to the Main Police Department of the Minsk City Executive Committee, where he was warned about the inadmissibility for holding the unsanctioned picket. The politician refused to sign the official warning and didn't refuse from holding the action.
The mass event of September 10, 2015 was observed by seven observers, who received a proper training and were designated by badges and blue vests.
Course of the mass event
1. At about 5.50 p.m., when Mikalai Statkevich came to the entrance of HUM, he was surrounded by a group of the picket participants and journalists. Soon he was approached by a policeman, who
walked through the crowd and started drawing up a violation report under Article 23.34, part 2 of the Code of Administrative Offenses of the Republic of Belarus, “violation of the order of organizing and holding mass events", thereby charging Mr. Statkevich of organizing the unauthorized mass event. Mikalai Statkevich presented him his passport, but refused to sign the report.
2. It was hard to determin the number of the picket participants due to the presence of a large number of journalists and policemen in plain clothes, as well as a shapeless group of picketers. According to our estimates, the number of the picketers varied between 60 (in the beginning of the event) and 130 people.
3. It was also difficult to determine the number of police officers, as most of them weren't designated in any way. In particular, two road policemen were present before the beginning of the event and appeared again when the picketers started to disperse, two people in the uniform with the label “Police” and about 40 people in plain clothes with distinctive signs (headphones, walkie-talkies). All high officials of the Main Police Department of the Minsk City Executive Committee and the district police departments were wearing plain clothes without any identifying marks. Two policemen were shooting the event on video and three more had built-in mini-cameras in the frontal part of the face.
4. No obstacles were created for those who wanted to come to the action site.
5. In general, there were no obstacles to the activities of mass media However, the news services which were conducting live reports from the site (Radio “Liberty”, “Nasha Niva”) had problems with the transmission, possibly due to the deliberate suppression of the signal.
6. There weren't registered any obstacles to the work of the observers.
7. The organizer of the picket wasn't designated in any special way.
8. There weren't registered any calls to violence on the part of the picket participants.
9. A counter-demonstration was registered: a man was waving the official flag at a distance of 15 meters from the main group of picketers, holding a portrait of Lukashenka and regularly shouting “Long live Lukashenka, long live Belarus!”. Some people gave him oral remarks, but there weren't serious conflicts. The police didn't separate the demonstrators and their adversaries (there were just 2-3 persons in plain clothes, silently watching nearby).
10. The picketers used a banner with a red figure of a man on a white horse, T-shirts “Lukashenka, resign!” and stickers “Boycott” on their clothes.
11. What concerns symbols, they used white-red-white flags (four, one of them on a flagpole) anda flag of the United Civil Party on the flagpole.
12. The picketers chanted “Long live Belarus!”, clapping their hands to the rhythm.
13. Speeches were delivered through a megaphone by Mikalai Statkevich (who called the people to stay outside polling stations on October 11, 2015), Uladzimir Niakliayeu and Anatol Liabedzka.
14. The organizers of the event didn't pose any requirements to its participants.
15. The police didn't use physical violence during the mass event.
16. The observers didn't see any ambulance cars.
17. During a certain period of time the crowd around the group of picketers created obstacles to the movement of pedestrians.
18. The people started dispersing from the picket site at 6.40 p.m., but a small group stayed with Mr. Statkevich for another hour.
For the organizers:
- to organize the space for the picket in a more organized way no to hinder the passage of citizens and to more explicitly express the opinion in a group of persons.
For law enforcement officials:
- to wear the uniform while securing the public order during mass events, and be designated with identification cards (badges or breastplates);
- to designate a policeman responsible for contacts with the observers, mass media and organizers of the mass event;
- 4 to terminate the administrative proceedings, instigated against Mikalai Statkevich for exercising his right to freedom of assembly guaranteed by Article 35 of the Constitution, Article 19 and 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other international instruments on human rights.
For the subjects possessing the right of legislative initiative:
- to initiate changes in the legislation aimed at bringing it in line with international standards on freedom of peaceful assembly.