Report on monitoring peaceful assembly on November 16 in Minsk Photo

2019 2019-11-17T16:35:00+0300 2020-01-22T16:42:40+0300 en http://spring96.org/files/images/sources/sustr_sv_ludzej_15_list_1.jpg The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

On November 16, Minsk hosted the second protest entitled "Meeting of Free People"

Conclusions:

  1. The meeting was peaceful ("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 call for violence and war, did not use or provoke violence. The participants of the peaceful assembly did not violate public order, the traffic rules and did not pose a threat to public safety as well as did not violate the rights and freedoms of others with their actions. Individual conflict situations do not affect the general characteristics of the meeting and should be evaluated in terms of the individual responsibility of people.
  2. In the course of the peaceful assembly, it was not possible to identify part of law enforcement officers as they were in civilian clothes, without identification signs. The presence of police officers at peaceful assemblies in civilian clothes does not allow participants to understand their functions and powers, and does not facilitate communication and effective resolution of complex or conflict situations.
  3. There were no obstacles in the work of independent observers.
  4. There were no cases of seizure of fireworks by law enforcement officials and attempts to seize a poster and speaker during the procession.
  5. The peaceful assembly was held as part of an election campaign for a candidate for the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus.
  6. There were no detentions of the organizers and participants.

Monitoring methodology

The National Human Rights Public Association "Belarusian Helsinki Committee" and the Human Rights Center "Viasna" systematically monitor every peaceful assembly in Belarus on the basis of the developed methodology. It includes recruitment of observers and training them following skills: the principles of public control, international standards of peaceful assembly and monitoring methodology; filling out the monitoring questionnaire during observation; processing of the questionnaires and writing a monitoring report. The questionnaires for the monitoring of peaceful assemblies are developed in cooperation with human rights organizations. They include the following points: the functions and powers of observers and journalists, the standards of organizers measures, the participants and law enforcement officials during the assembly as well as the presence of ambulances and medical rescue teams. Observers are allowed to monitor an event only if they agree with the monitoring rules and principles (such as: to be independent and politically neutral; to contain factual information, not opinions; do not participate into observed event; to adhere to the principles of law: to reject any form of violence and discrimination; to behave correctly). During their terms as observers, people shall stay separately from the participants of the event.  They are marked with special certificates and special blue vests with the inscription "#Controlby".

Preliminary information

On November 15, during the peaceful meeting “Meeting of Free People”, calls were made in order to gather the following day (November 16) in Svaboda Square as part of an election campaign for the candidate for the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus Alena Talstaya.

On November 17, elections of members of the House of Representatives of the Republic of Belarus of the 7th convocation were held in Belarus. From October 18 to November 16, the stage of campaigning took place, including through peaceful meetings of candidates. Such campaigning events (pickets, rallies, etc.) were carried out by a candidate or their authorized representatives; the events required notification to the local executive body; there were no strict restrictions on the venue; the organizers were not required to conclude contracts and pay for public order services, medical care, and cleaning of the territory. 

Not far from the announced place of the picket, on Zybickaja Street, it was also planned to hold a campaigning picket of a group of candidates from the coalition "Youth Bloc". According to preliminary information, after the picket, they planned to join the picket in Svaboda Square.

During the meeting, full-time and continuous (from 17:54 to 20:03) civilian control was carried out by 3 observers who had been trained and were designated accordingly.

Peaceful assembly

The following facts were noted during the peaceful assembly:

  1. At 18:00, at the venue (Svaboda Square, near the building of the City Hall), there were at least 85 participants, 2 traffic police officers, 2 police officers in uniform and at least 35 officers in civilian clothes. Along the perimeter of Svaboda Square, there were 2 minibusses and a traffic police car on the roadway. Also, not far from the Square, there was a fire service vehicle and one minibus. At the picket site, there were campaign stands and a blue tent. Speakers used loudspeakers and a microphone, there was music. Everyone was invited to express their opinion by a microphone. At 19:05, at least 132 people and at least 40 law enforcement officers in civilian clothes were present (they could be identified by walkie-talkies, headphones, video recorders, and hand-held cameras). During the meeting, staff members observed what was happening, four of them videotaped it with the hand-held cameras. There was no ambulance.
  2. At least 13 media representatives attended the peaceful assembly. They talked with the participants, interviewed them, and broadcast live from the meeting.

  3. Symbols used: 7 white-red-white flags; 6 red flags with the image of “Pahonya”; 6 flags of Hramada; 5 flags of European Belarus.
  4. Used posters and banners: “Land to the Arabs! Parliament to wh***s”, “Belarus is not a commodity, it is not for sale. Narodnaya Hramada”, “While you slept, Luka sold our motherland”, “Belarus without Lukashenka is like a fish without a bicycle. Narodnaya Hramada”, "The alliance with Russia - war and poverty!", “Farm dictatorship basta! Astraviec NPP basta!”, “Lukashenka must go!”, “Away. Narodnaya Hramada”, "Freedom to the people", “Referendum on Article 8 of the Constitution!”, “# Weareagainst abortion, the death penalty is only for criminals.”

  5. Used slogans: “Long live Belarus!”, "We believe, we can, we will win!", “Let's send Sasha to Russia”, “Fake election - BASTA, Astraviec NPP - BASTA, Lukashenka - BASTA, Yarmoshyna - BASTA, Occupation - BASTA, Kolkhoz Dictatorship - BASTA, “Together with us”, “Sasha, go away”, “Long live European Belarus”, “Sasha is sissy”, “Freedom to the people”.
  6. At 19:12, the organizers called on everyone to march to the Central Election Commission building and there to burn the certificates of candidates for deputies and proxies. People lined up in the column, the first row was holding a banner "King has no clothes!", lit 2 fires and the column moved to Independence Avenue and further along the avenue towards Independence Square. At least 80 people marched in the column.

  7. At 19:31 and 19:33, law enforcement officers in civilian clothes took the fires from the participants and put them out on the asphalt. At 19:35, while crossing the road at a traffic light, employees in civilian clothes tried to grasp a banner and a speaker, a crush began right in the middle of the carriageway, one of the participants fell down. Equipment of Radio Liberty journalists was damaged.

  8. Traffic policemen were at the crossroads along the column; the traffic police car with flashing blue lights accompanied the convoy. Law enforcement officers in civilian clothes watched the people not stepping on the carriageway.
  9. At 19:50, the convoy reached the Central Central Election Commission building, the speeches of the organizers began, then people burned the credentials of proxies and candidates for deputies. A drone (unmanned aerial vehicle) was noticed on Independence Square, at least 60 law enforcement officers in civilian clothes were noted.
  10. At 20:00, the organizers announced the end of the action and people began to disperse.

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;
  • do not seize posters and objects used during peaceful assemblies without clear and precise voiced grounds, as this is an arbitrary and unreasonable restriction on the right to freedom of 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.

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