Opposition cites excessive policing charge to call off first Chernobyl remembrance rally in 30 years
The organizers of Charnobylski Shliakh, an annual demonstration held on April 26 in Minsk to remember the victims of the 1986 Chernobyl Nuclear Plant explosion, say there will be no rally this year after the city police department charged them 5,700 rubles (or USD 2,700) for policing the event.
The authorities also missed a deadline to reply to the organizers’ formal application and thus “did everything to undermine the protest,” according to Volha Kavalkova, co-chair of the Belarusian Christian Democracy.
Last week, Kavalkova wrote to the Minister of Justice to complain about the current rules for the organization of meetings, including obligation to cover police services, which contradict three articles of the Constitution.
Another Charnobylski Shliakh co-organizer, Viachaslau Siuchyk of the opposition group Razam, says the policing costs are excessive, as they prevent citizens from exercising their basic right to organize peaceful protests.
According to Viasna expert Valiantsin Stefanovich, recent changes in the law “On Mass Events”, which entered into force three months ago, did not improve the situation with the freedom of peaceful assembly, but, on the contrary, created backbreaking conditions for the organizers of public events.
“The situation with Charnobylski Shliakh is a sort of quintessence of the problem of laying the costs of holding peaceful assemblies on the organizers. This is one of our traditional grounds for criticism of the law “On Mass Events”.
The situation further deteriorated after the adoption of the amendments and the entry into force of a government decree, which set tariffs for paid services provided by the police. Also, according to the decree, if the organizers want to stage a protest outside a designated place, the multiplying factor is used in calculating the amount of payment. As a result, the final cost can be up to several thousand euros,” the human rights activist said.