Viasna urges authorities to stop persecution of citizens for exercising freedom of peaceful assembly and expression
Human Rights Center "Viasna"
Minsk - 4 April 2016
Starting from August 2015, peaceful assemblies taking place in Minsk and other Belarusian cities without the permission of local authorities have not been dispersed by law enforcement agencies, their participants have not been detained and not subjected to administrative arrests. The Human Rights Center "Viasna" notes this trend as a positive development aimed at reducing the overall level of repression in the country.
At the same time, we stress that the administrative prosecution of citizens taking part in peaceful assemblies, including through imposing heavy fines, is a violation of their right to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression. This has been repeatedly confirmed by the practice of the United Nations Human Rights Committee in cases of individual communications by Belarusian citizens.
In a number of cases, the imposition of excessive, obviously disproportionate fines entails the violation of other constitutional rights of citizens, freedom of movement in particular.
The practice of recent meetings proved their absolute peaceful nature. Neither the participants nor the organizers violated public order or committed any illegal actions that would pose a threat to national security, the rights of other citizens and their morals.
We emphasize the fact that the current legislation on public events makes it virtually impossible to obtain permission for holding a peaceful assembly from the local executive authorities, imposing on the organizers financial obligations (protection of public order, healthcare measures and a cleanup of the territory); it also provides for other restrictive and repressive rules.
We believe that in order to ensure the freedom of peaceful assembly the Act "On Mass Events" should be brought into line with international standards of human rights, including the ODIHR Guidelines on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly. We are ready to provide recommendations and proposals to the government bodies possessing the right of legislative initiative.
The Human Rights Center "Viasna" urges the authorities to stop the persecution of citizens in connection with their exercise of the freedom of peaceful assembly and expression.