Monitoring report of peaceful assembly "Dziady" on October 28 in Minsk Photo

2018 2018-10-29T11:59:00+0300 2019-01-03T12:16:35+0300 en http://spring96.org/files/images/sources/dziady-2018-7.jpg The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

On October 28, 2018, a traditional procession and rally dedicated to the Dziady Ancestral Memorial Day were held in Minsk.

Conclusions

  1. The meeting was peaceful (when “the organizers have peaceful intentions and the meeting is non-violent” according to the OSCE Guidelines on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly). The participants did not use calls for violent actions and war, did not use violence.
  2. Law enforcement paid increased attention to independent observers - selectively recorded passport data without explanation. It should be noted that, according to the Guidelines, the monitoring of peaceful   assemblies is an important source of independent information about the behavior of all parties of an assembly. This information can be used in various ways, including, being a basis for dialogue between authorities, law enforcement agencies and civil society. Reports of observers can be a basis to discuss such issues as the effectiveness of current legislation and the degree to which the state fulfills its positive obligations to protect the freedom of peaceful assembly.
  3. State Motor Vehicle Inspectors effectively and correctly organized the movement of participants at traffic lights, underground and land crossings, without breaking the column.

  1. During the march, it was not possible to identify law enforcement officers, as they were all in civili clothes. The presence of police officers in peaceful assemblies in civilian clothes does not allow participants to understand their functions and powers, and does not facilitate communication and effective resolution of conflict situations.
  2. Obstacles to the work of the media were not noted.
  3. The need to obtain permission for the action is a disproportionate restriction of the right to peaceful assembly. At the same time, prior notification of the authorities, meetings to discuss the details of the assembly and similar effective communication between the organizers, authorities, law enforcement agencies and other interested parties should be considered good practice that contributes to the realization of the right to peaceful assembly. Meeting is very important for the organizers, authorities and law enforcement agencies to discuss all the details before mass events and peaceful assemblies in the form of processions. However, the authorities should not impose excessive demands on the organizers, thus refusing to fulfill their obligations to facilitate peaceful assemblies.
  4. Detentions of the participants were not noticed.

Monitoring methodology

The National Human Rights Public Association “Belarusian Helsinki Committee” and the Human Rights Center "Viasna" conduct systematic observation of peaceful assemblies in Belarus on the basis of the developed monitoring methodology. It includes: the recruitment of observers and teaching the principles of public control,international standards for conducting peaceful assemblies and methodology of observation to them; filling out a surveillance questionnaire during observation outside; processing of questionnaires and writing a monitoring report. Questionnaires for monitoring peaceful assemblies are developed jointly by human rights organizations and include questions about the possibility of observers and journalists fulfilling their functions, the behavior of the organizers and participants of peaceful assemblies, employees of law enforcement agencies, and presence of the ambulance at the mass event. Observers are allowed to observe only if they agree to follow the rules and principles of observation (independence and political neutrality; description of facts, not opinions; non-interference in the event which is being monitored; adherence to the principles of right: rejection of all forms of violence and discriminatory practices; ethical conduct). While performing their duties, observers keep away separate from the participants. They are marked with certificates and blue vests with the inscription "# СontrolBY".

Preliminary information

On October 19, the media and social networks added the information that the Conservative Christian Party of the Belarusian Popular Front had applied for a traditional procession and rally dedicated to the Dziady Ancestral Memorial Day on Sunday October 28 and received a positive decision of the Minsk City Executive Committee. The decision states that the responsible persons are obliged to come to the executive committee to agree on the route and discuss other issues of ensuring the protection of public order. In addition, the decision contains a reminder that the organizers are responsible for maintaining public order.

From the beginning of the peaceful assembly, 4 persons observed, beginning at 1.30 pm and until the end of the meeting - 3 observers. All observers received appropriate training and were properly marked.

What happened during the public event

During the peaceful assembly the following facts were noted:

  1. At the time of the start of monitoring at 11:30, individual participants and media representatives were at the building of the Luch watch factory (Independence Avenue, 95). The beginning of the procession was announced at 12:00. In fact, the movement of the column began at 12:08.
  2. At the gathering place there were at least 140 participants, at least 47 law enforcement officers in civil clothes. An unmanned aerial vehicle (drone), probably belonging to law enforcement agencies, is observed.
  3. The organizers were identified by badges, several people served as a squad with bandages on their sleeves. The organizers used a loudspeaker. When the column was near the Moscow metro station, the organizers asked the participants to walk in a column no wider than 4 people.
  4. At least 47 law enforcement officers were present at the gathering place, during the march and during the rally. All of them were in civilian clothes, they could only be identified by walkie-talkies, headphones and other specific features. Some of them filmed what was happening on hand-held video cameras.
  5. The information group of the Main Internal Affairs Directorate of the Minsk City Executive Committee was absent at the gathering place of participants, so the observers asked the police officers about the number of law enforcement officers who were maintaining the order. The data was not provided.
  6. At the traffic lights the column was not torn, the traffic police stopped the movement of vehicles, that is a positive step. In the area of the underpass of the Moscow metro station, the movement of the column was organized as follows: traffic police stopped the traffic and the participants of the march walked along the roadway through the removed stretches of the fence. In the area of the Vostok metro station, traffic police officers asked to removed personal transport from the colony’s path.

  1. During the march, the following symbols were used:
  • banners and posters "1988 Dziady 2018", "Haisy - Vitebsk Kurapaty", "Conservative Christian Party - BNF", "Kurapaty - our national memorial!", "The Stalinists - out of people's shrine!", "Will rescue people's memorial on officials'’, "An alien symbol should not be at Calvary", "Belarus fines grilles tortures repressed", "Russia - war", "The Belarusian Autocephalous Orthodox Church", "Turn off the REN TV turn on brains", "Every red calendar day poured with the blood of the innocent", "Let’s honor victims of Kurapaty", "NO alien tumor on Kurapaty Calvary";
  • flags: no less than 22 white-red-white flags on flagpoles, at least 2 white-red-white flags with a six-pointed cross, white-red-white flag with a six-pointed black cross, white-red-white flag with the emblem “Chase”, t least 8 white-red-white flags on the shoulders of the participants, small white-red-white flags and other elements with this symbols: stripes, ribbons, sewings on.
  • also noticed: the emblem of the city of Brest with the inscription "Berastse", Gadsden flag on the shoulders of a participant, not less than 6 wooden crosses, bouquets of flowers.
  1. The participants used the slogans “Long Live Belarus!”, “Belarus First”, sang the songs “The stars won't go out in the sky”, “Pagonya” and others.
  2. There were children and priests among the participants of the peaceful assembly.
  3. The column was accompanied by a blue minibus with sound and video recording equipment. Ambulances were not noticed during the whole event.

  1. At about 1.30 pm, police lieutenant colonel Zhuravsky Leonid Stanislavovich in civilian uniform came up to the observers who were following the colony. It was heard how he received a command to identify the observers, as they interfered with the work of the police. A law enforcement officer introduced himself, showed his ID and took a photo of the passports of two observers with his mobile phone. The observers didn’t get any requirements, claims or explanations were reported.

  1. At about 15:07 a colony (at least 280 people) approached Kurapaty forest. There were 2 law enforcement officers in uniform and 1 in the “Information Group” vest.
  2. The rally was held in Kurapaty tract from 15:23 to 16:27, using a microphone and speakers. The speakers did not call for violence, extremism, war, etc. At least 310 people attended the rally. At the end of the rally, the hymn “The Mighty God” was played.
  3. At 15:58 at least 16 people separated from the rest participants of the rally and went to the restaurant, "Let's go, let's eat", where since May 31, 2017 daily protests are being held. People were talking and took pictures.

Recommendations:

For law enforcement officers:

  • carry out the protection of public order during peaceful assemblies in uniform, as well as to be identified by identification means (badges or breastplates);
  • assign a contact person from among the police officers to communicate with observers, media, organizers and participants of the peaceful assembly;

   For subjects with the right of legislative initiative:

  • initiate changes in legislation in order to bring it in line with international standards in the field of freedom of peaceful assembly;

For Executive authority (Minsk City Executive Committee):

  • effectively perform the function of administering peaceful assemblies. Before, during and after peaceful assembly;
  • refrain from excessive demands on the organizers of peaceful assemblies, do not shift the functions of administration and law enforcement to the organizers.

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