Report on monitoring of the ‘March of non-parasites’ in Minsk. 15 March 2017
On March 15, ‘March of non-parasites’ was held in Minsk protesting against Presidential Decree No. 3
- The mass event was of a peaceful character (an assembly should be deemed peaceful if “its organisers have professed peaceful intentions and the conduct of the assembly is non-violent”). The participants and organisers did not appeal to violence or aggressive actions.
- Preventive detentions, brutal attacks on the participants, the use of physical force during arrests and at the police department, as well as the use of non-lethal weapons (pepper spray) by the police are unauthorised practices and constitute a gross violation of human rights. At least 21 participants of the March were detained, some with the disproportionate use of force.
We’d like to remind that Belarusian authorities have partly supported the recommendation 129.90 in the second cycle of the UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review in 2015, according to which the Republic of Belarus should "ensure that peaceful demonstrators are not imprisoned, harassed or ill-treated by police for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and immediately and unconditionally release all those who have been detained solely for exercising these rights”.
Despite higher than usual numbers of Special Police Forces and Traffic Police officers, it was not possible to identify the law enforcement officials since they were not marked with identification badges and a significant part of them were not wearing their uniforms. There is no information on the rationale for such an appearance; the inability of identification may result in the impunity of the police officers in the event of conflicts; it confuses the organisers and participants as to who to contact in conflict situations.
Please note that according to the Guidelines of the OSCE ODIHR "Human Rights Handbook on Policing assemblies", designed specifically for the law enforcement officers, the basic principles of policing assemblies are the following: possession of information, assistance, communication and differentiated approach to the participants of a mass action.
- Traffic Police Officers did not provide a continuous movement of a column during the demonstration, disrupting the movement at every traffic light.
Throughout several years RHRPA Belarusian Helsinki Committee and Human rights centre ‘Viasna’ have been regularly monitoring mass events in Minsk on the basis of a thoroughly elaborated methodology, which consists of: recruiting and teaching observers principles of civil control, standards of peaceful assembly and methodology of observing; filling in forms during on-site observations, processing of forms and preparing of a monitoring report. Forms of mass events observations have been jointly developed by human rights organisations. They include questions on the capability of observation for observers and mass media in relation to the attitude of organisers, mass events participants, police officers and the presence of ambulance. Observers may be admitted to observation only by accepting and abiding by rules and principles of the observation (independence and political neutrality; description of facts, not personal opinions, non-interference in the event observed; commitment to the rule of law: rejections of all forms of violence and discriminatory practices; correct behaviour). Whilst executing their duties observers are kept separately from participants. Observers are marked by an ‘observer’ badges and blue jackets.
It became known from the media and social networks that a mass action was going to take place on 15 March 2017. The action had been authorised by the authorities in the following order: gathering of the participants at 17.30 at the site of the "Kastrychnik" cinema, where the procession would proceed from Surganova street to Bangalore Square. Police officers promised not to ward in the gathering site. The organisers of the event presented the observers with the authorisation from the Minsk city executive committee.
During the mass event on 15th March 2017 seven observers were continuously executing the observation on-site. The observers had been trained accordingly and were marked in a proper way.
The course of the mass event
The following facts were observed throughout the event:
- The place of the gathering was warded up with metal fences on the left of the cinema (facing off the cinema). Prior to the action, around 17:45, about 450 people gathered at the place, including the representatives of the media. 40 law enforcement officers in civilian clothing and 8 Special Forces Police officers, 3 Traffic police officers, as well as senior staff of Minsk police department in civilian clothes were present. The organisers were marked with armbands. Speeches were being delivered as people were gathering at the place.
- One of the girl felt sick at the gathering place. An ambulance from a nearby court did not react. About 5 minutes passed before another car arrived.
- Around 18:05 a column was formed and it started to move on the pavement towards Surganava street. Traffic and Special Police Forces officers were moving along the column. The movement of the column was interrupted at every traffic light by the traffic police. As a result, the column stretched over a long distance. Around 18:50 the column approached the area in front of Bahdanovich street, where people began to disperse. The event terminated at about 20.00.
- In total, the observers counted at least 2,400 participants, 20 police officers in the uniforms of Special Police Forces and 10 in Traffic Police uniforms. About 50 people were noted looking like police officers in civilian clothes.
- Some of the participants (about 30 people) were with closed faces, however they not performing illegal actions.
- Throughout the procession a large number of police officers wearing civilian clothes and unmarked police vehicles accompanied a column of anarchists. The participants of this part of the procession attempted to leave at about 19.00. However, at the bus stop ‘Bangalor square’ towards Niamiga unknown people stopped the trolley bus and tried to pull out the participants from there. Although the other citizens successfully intervened, the two trolley buses with the participants got blocked by the police officers in civilian clothes again at the stop ‘Belaya Vezha’, where about 20 people, including random passengers, were detained with the use of disproportionate force and non-lethal weapons (pepper spray).
- There was no interference with the work of the observers and journalists. However, there were complaints on the blocking of certain websites.
- The following symbols were used: one state flag, three flags of United Civic Party of Belarus, three flags of ‘Tell the truth’ campaign, three flags of Belarusian Christian Democracy Party, 3 flags of Belarusian Social Democratic Party (‘Hramada’), several white-red-white flags, two flags of anarcho-communism and one flag of anarcho-feminism.
- The following slogans were used: “Who is the main parasite? Belarusian President!”, “Long live Belarus”, “No to Decree number three! Lukashenko go away”, “Give us jobs”, “Get out to streets, regain the city”, “Shame on Russian television”, “Together we are a force”, “Lawlessness has no limits”, “Go away”, “We believe, we can, we will win”, “Freedom to political prisoners”, “Enough to suffer, enough to be afraid! It’s time to resist”, “A shovel to a state official, a salary to people!”, “The parasite state will not convince us to become slaves”, “State officials are thieves, politicians are liars, digging for dollars a grave for the country”, “From now on I am a parasite and have no faith in the state!”.
- The following banners were noticed: a red banner “Power to councils – no to Decree”, “We are not parasites”, a banner with a drawn bison and forceps and a caption “To pull without numbing, decree no. 3”, banners “A bureaucrat, a state official, a cop is a parasite”, “Decree No. 3 – maybe it should be this way”, “Forced labour is prohibited”, “The state creates conditions for full employment”, “No state – no taxes”, “A shovel to a state official, a salary to people”; posters: a T-shirt “328 are not just numbers”, a poster with a fig sign, a poster “Police, come over to the side of the people. The people will not hurt you”, a reversed portrait of Lukashenko, a poster with the Constitution and hooves: “They trample our rights with their hooves in mud”, “How much does it cost for a Belarusian to have a President”, a poster with a fire “Militsiya: puppets, ideologists, loafers, liars, cynics, janissaries”, “That much truth in the eyes of state whores!”, “Where are my 500$?”, “Constitution of the Republic of Belarus”, “Employment to people, control over power”, “Abolish Decree no. 3 and shameful resolution of the Ministry of Culture No. 7 of 30 January 2017”, “Constitution law consistency”, a poster with raisins “Lukashenko, don’t pick out the raisins from my bun!”, a poster with a crossed out moustached face, “Stop mocking the people and the Constitution”, “He pulled us aside the abyss and pushed us over the edge. We are good to go on our own now”, “Don’t grab by the nuts! Take hold of the economy”, “We need employment in the Motherland”, a coffin “Decree No. 3. Human rights”.
- After the action 16 people were detained in the Central and 5 in Pershamayski police departments.
To Law enforcement officials:
*To stop the practice of brutal arrests and harassment of peaceful demonstrators as it contradicts voluntarily undertaken obligations of the Republic of Belarus in the field of human rights;
*In accordance with Article 5 of the Law of the Republic of Belarus "On the Internal Affairs Bodies", "the activities of internal affairs bodies shall be public." Guided by this standard, we suggest that all officials whilst guarding public order during mass events must wear uniforms and be identifiable by means of identification (badges);
*To designate a contact person from the number of police officers for the communication with observers, media and organisers of mass events;
*To initiate amendments to Belarusian legislation to bring it into compliance with international standards of peaceful assemblies.
 The name for the police forces in Belarus.
 Announced by Lukashenko average in the country salary.