Practice of holding peaceful assemblies in Belarus cannot be a good example, Viasna and BHC say
The experts of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" and the Belarusian Helsinki Committee have prepared an overview of the situation with freedom of assembly in Belarus in 2016-2017. The analytical document is part of a regional project funded by the European Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ECNL). Earlier, the initiative presented the results of monitoring of freedom of peaceful assembly in the five Balkan countries. Now a similar review of Belarus is available online.
“Recent years have seen an increased number and intensity of protests in the Western Balkans and Eastern Partnership region. At the same time, countries have experienced a significant increase in restrictions on the right to peaceful assembly," says a message released following the publication of the report on Belarus and eight other countries, including Armenia and Moldova.
Cooperation with local experts in nine countries helped “map the existing environment for assembly.” The assessment reports provide a brief overview of topical issues and recent developments related to freedom of assembly in the last years.
The results of monitoring the situation in Belarus stress that “the practice of holding peaceful assemblies in Belarus cannot be a good example.”
“Belarusian legislation on street events contains excessive and disproportionate restrictions on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, which devalue the entire meaning of this right. In Belarus, there is a permission-based principle of holding meetings, which is encumbered by the obligation of organizers to file civil law contracts with government bodies (maintaining public order, clean-up of the territory and providing medical care) before filing an application for holding the meeting. In some cases, the above government bodies refuse to sign such contracts without a respective decision by the local executive committee to authorize the mass event, while local executive committees in some cases refuse to authorize the mass event before such contracts are signed,” experts of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” and BHC say.
“The main negative trend is that the organizers and participants of peaceful assemblies are brought to administrative responsibility only because of the absence of a special permission to hold the meetings,” the survey adds.
The authors insist that the Belarusian authorities should “begin systemic work to reform legislation on mass events involving a wide range of stakeholders, including representatives of civil society and political parties.”
Priority recommendations include:
- notification-based principle of holding peaceful assemblies;
- disapplication of the duty of the organizers in peaceful assemblies to sign contracts for cleaning the territory of the meeting venue, medical care and law enforcement, since these actions result from the positive obligations of the state to implement the right to peaceful assembly;
- removing unreasonable restrictions on the venues of mass events.
ECNL’s mission is to promote an enabling legal and fiscal environment for civil society in Europe and beyond. It is deeply commited to empower civil society organizations and to ensure their sustainability. ECNL's experts have provided support that has directly and positively influenced more than 60 policies and laws affecting CSOs in Europe and Eurasia.