Report on results of monitoring of mass event on October 10, 2015 in Minsk
The assembly and procession on October 10, 2015 in Minsk was peaceful. The absence of an application for holding the mass event, required by law, is not a reason to limit the freedom of peaceful assembly.
The main negative phenomena were the lack of designated policemen and the impossibility of unimpeded movement of the column of demonstrators. We should also note the reluctance of police officers to communicate with observers for commenting on the measures for the protection of public order during the mass event.
The positive factor is the cessation of the practice of drawing up protocols on administrative violations against the participants and organizers of the event compared to past actions.
Belarusian Helsinki Committee and the Human Rights Center "Viasna" have been carrying out systematic monitoring of public events in Minsk for several years already, being guided by their own methodology for monitoring, which includes the recruitment and training of observers regarding the principless of public control, standards of peaceful assembly and monitoring methodology; filling out the questionnaire during the monitoring on the spot; procession of the questionnaires and writing the monitoring report. The observation questionnaires have been developed jointly by the human rights organizations and include questions regarding the possibility of implementing the functions by observers and the media, the behavior of the organizers and participants of the mass event and the police, as well as the presence of ambulance cars. Observers are admitted to watching only if they agree to comply with the rules and principles of observation (independence and political neutrality; description of the facts, not opinions; non-interference in the event, which is being monitored; commitment to the principles of law; rejection of all forms of violence and discriminatory practices; correct behavior). During the execution of their duties observers keep separately from the action participants. They are marked designated with badges and blue vests.
During a meeting with Mikalai Statkevich on September 23, 2015 there was announced the date of the next meeting – at 5 p.m. on October 10 on Svabody Square in Minsk. Later he voiced the proposal to also hold the “procession of the national flag” to Yakub Kolas Square.
The Main Police Department of the Minsk City Executive Committee was informed about the planned presence of Belarusina anf foreign observers during the events of 10 and 11 October, 2015.
The mass event of October 10, 2015 in Minsk was monitored all the time by 20 observvers with badges of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, who were wearing blue vests with the inscription “#controlBY” and had received a proper training. Apart from them, the event was monitored by six foreign observers, who were wearing yellow vests with the inscription “Nabludatel” and had IDs of international observers.
Course of Mass Event
1. At about 5 p.m. first participants of the event came to the entrance of the Town Hall after Uladzimir Niakliayeu. Politicians delivered short speeches. Mikalai Statkevich called on to the participants of the event to proceed to Yakub Kolas Square along the pavements. At 5.13 the column of demonstrators moved to the hotel “Jeŭropa”. The demonstrators crossed the street outside the pedestrian crossing. Then the column moved to Lienin Street by the pavements and turned to Niezaliežnasci Avenue. At the intersection of the streets the road police tried to stop the demonstrators when the red traffic light was on, but a part of the demonstrators including the organizers ignored their claims and crossed the road at that time where they wanted. The demonstrators at the end of the column, on their part, kept to the traffic rules, crossing the street at the green traffic light. At about 6 p.m. the beginning of the column reached Yakub Kolas Square, where they listened to short speeches. However, the people didn't disperse until 7 p.m.
2. The number of demonstrators increased from about 300 people at the beginning of the event to 860 during the procession through the bridge near Horki Park.
3. It was difficult to find the number of policemen, as most of them weren't dressed in the uniform. There were 6 people in the uniform of the traffic police, 0 people in the police uniform and about 70 people in civilian clothes with peculiar identifying marks (headphones, walkie-talkies). Some of them were walking in the column amids the demonstrators. The chiefs of the Main Police Department of the Minsk City Executive Committee and the district police departments were also present at the event, wearing civilian clothes without any identifying marks.
4. There were three incidents in the work of the observers:
1) during the preparation to the observation they were several times approached by a policeman in civilian clothes who they were. He introduced himself, showed his police ID, examined their observer IDs and the car by which they arrived;
2) road policemen were hiding their breast signs from observers and rudely pushed away their camera at the crossing over Engels Street;
3) on Yakub Kolas Square policemen in civilian clothes rejected being policemen and refused to communicate with observers. They also showed interest to what the observers were writing and saying during the whole event, looking in their papers from behind their backs and listening to their conversations.
5. The organizers of the mass event weren't marked, there was no civil guard consisting of demonstrators.
6. No calls to violent actions on the part of the event participants were registered (we don't regard the slogan “Glory to the nation – death to the enemies!” as violent due to the lack of specification of the “enemies”).
7. Demonstrators used the following posters and streamers: a banner with Sviatlana Aleksiyevich's words: “Certainly, I'd like to see a Belarus that would be similar to the Scandinavian countries, or the Baltic states, at least”, the poster “Tyrant, Belarus breaks the contract with you!”, the streamer “Boycott-2015”, the posters “Return our votes!”, “We want to live!”, “Let's bring Lukashenka to tribunal!”, “Lukashenka, maidan is waiting for you!”.
8. Demonstrators used white-red-white flags, flags with the emblem “Pahonia”, flags of the Young Front and the European Union.
Use the following symbols: a white-red-white flags, the flag with the same pursuit, the flag of the Young Front, European Belarus.
9. Participants of the event used the slogans "Long live Belarus!", "Glory to Ukraine – Glory to the heroes!", "Glory to the nation – death to enemies!”, :We believe, we can, we'll win!” “Motherland, freedom – down with freaky Luka!”, “Independence!”.
10. The column was partially “torn” at the traffic lights and all crossings by the traffic policemen who didn't stop the vehicles on the demand of the event organizers, thereby creating a threat to the life and health of demonstrators;
11. The observers did not see any ambulance cars, but saw three buses with riot police in the yards near the place of the assembly.
to the organizers:
1) to be more active in communicating with the law enforcement agencies and participants, and especially pay attention to the unhindered movement through street crossings. If possible, a civil guard should be organized for the event, too.
To law enforcement officials:
2) to maintain public order during mass events wearing the uniform, as well as be designated with identification cards (badges or breast signs).
3) to mark a contact police officer for communication with observers, the media and the organizers of events.
4) to ensure smooth movement of the column of demonstrators through street crossings by stopping the vehicles.
To the subjects possessing the right of legislative initiative:
5) to initiate changes in the legislation with the aim to bring it into line with international standards on freedom of peaceful assembly.