Report on monitoring the rally on the anniversary of the Sluck Uprising. November 25, 2017
On November 25, 2017 the city of Sluck hosted an event honoring the heroes of the Sluck armed uprising (1920).
- The mass event was exclusively peaceful (when "the organizers have peaceful intentions and the assembly is non-violent"). The participants did not use calls for violent actions, war or discrimination.
- The action was authorized. But the need to obtain permission to hold a rally and arbitrarily change the venue of a rally should be interpreted as a disproportionate restriction on the right to peaceful assembly.
- The place authorized by the executive committee to collect participants was a parking lot, surrounded on three sides by a fence, and an administrative building on the fourth side, there was a busy road and private houses close by. The route of the procession and the rally were hold completely in the town park away from the town’s busy streets. Thus, the meeting was not able to attract the attention of citizens, which is a disproportionate restriction of the right to peaceful assembly.
- During the mass event there was no possibility to identify employees of law enforcement bodies, they were all in civilian clothes.
- Law enforcement officials did not interfere with the monitoring and the work of the media. Participants in the meeting, moving along the permitted route, were forced to descend to the roadway because of the narrowness of the sidewalk (150 cm).
- The traffic police officers, using sound reinforcement equipment, several times demanded to return to the sidewalk and comply with the traffic laws, which set the right of peaceful assembly below the formal traffic rules.
For several years the National Human Rights Public Association “Belarusian Helsinki Committee” and the Human Rights Center "Viasna" have been conducting systematic observations of public events based on a monitoring methodology which includes: recruiting observers and training them in the principles of public control, in the standards of peaceful assemblies and observation methodology; in filling an observer's questionnaire during internal control; processing of questionnaires and writing a monitoring report. Questionnaires on the observation of public events were developed by the two human rights organizations mentioned, they include questions establishing whether observers and media have a possibility to function, how do the organizers of a public event, its participants and police officers behave, and also whether the ambulance is present. Observers are allowed to observe only if they agree to follow the rules and the principles of observation (independence and political neutrality; description of facts, but not opinions; non-interference into the event observed; commitment to the principles of law; refusal of any forms of violence and discrimination; appropriate behavior). During the fulfillment of their functions, observers should stand apart from participants. They should be identified with observers' badges and blue vests with an inscription #controlBY
The information about the action was distributed through the mass media. The media also reported that the Sluck Regional Executive Committee allowed the conduct of the action, but changed the platform for gathering of participants and the route of the procession.
During the mass event, an observer, who has been trained and were appropriately marked were continuously and continuously monitoring the process.
What happened during the public event
During the mass action the following facts were noted down:
- Participants of the action and representatives of the media began to gather in the parking lot near the administrative building of the city stadium at around 2:20. The event itself began at 2:30 pm.
- 60-70 people attended the event. The column was accompanied by 10 law enforcement officials in civilian clothes, but with portable radios, video cameras and other characteristic signs of police officers.
- At 2:55 the participants lined up in a column and began a march via the route along the town park.
- Throughout the march, traffic policemen monitored the execution of traffic rules. A requirement for participants not to go out on the roadway was announced by sound amplifying equipment.
- The procession turned into a park and moved mainly along its border.
- At about 3:00 the participants stopped at the main entrance to the city park. Participants of the organization "Young Front" gave a solemn oath of allegiance to Belarus and the Belarusian people.
At 3:10, the participants continued their march to the venue of the rally in front of the entrance to the dance floor in the park.
- At 3:15 the meeting began. The speakers told about the approaching anniversary of the Belarusian People's Republic announcement, they called for joining the celebration. They expressed negatively that in this place, in which the authorities allowed to hold a rally, no one sees them. Also they said it was advantageous for the authorities to hide such events from citizens, and thereby they deprived Belarusians of the right to honor their historical memory. The importance of the Sluck armed uprising for the Belarusian statehood was noted.
- At 3:45 the action was over, the participants began to disperse.
- The obstruction of the work of the media and observers has not been recorded.
- The following slogans are fixed: "Long live Belarus!", "Glory to the heroes! - Glory to the heroes!"
- Participants used the following symbols: 7 white-red-white flags, one white-red-white flag with a cross, a white-red-white flag with the coat of arms "Pahonya", a white-red-white flag of large size, the flag of Ukraine; a banner "Sluck Armed Uprising of 1920", the BPF banner with the "Pahonya" emblem, a banner "The BPF party is the party for the protection of people's interests".
- Ambulance was absent during the event.
To the organizers:
If possible, organize a squad and negotiate with the police about the order of securing public order and unimpeded movement.
To law enforcement officers:
- To effectively perform a protective function towards to participants in peaceful assemblies, respond to any threats to them;
in accordance with Article 5 of the Law of the Republic of Belarus "On Internal Affairs Bodies", "the activities of the internal affairs bodies are public". Guided by this rule, we propose that all employees maintain public order during mass events in uniform, and also be identified by identification means (badges or badges);
- Identify a contact person from among police officers for communication with observers, the media and organizers of the mass event;
- Ensure the unhindered movement of the column of participants.
To subjects with the right of legislative initiative:
Initiate changes to the legislation in order to bring it in line with international standards in the field of freedom of peaceful assembly.
To the Sluck Regional Executive Committee:
Refrain from arbitrarily changing the venue of peaceful assemblies, to ensure the right to peaceful assembly and expression in public places, in accordance with the universally recognized human rights standards.