18th session of the Human Rights Council Item 4
20 September 2011
Delivered by Anna Dobrovolskaya
Thank you Mme President,
I speak on behalf of the Youth Human Rights Movement, a member/partner of CIVICUS.
Mme High Commissioner,
We welcome your oral update on the human rights situation in Belarus.
We would like to address the issue of freedom of peaceful assembly in Belarus, as this is a fundamental right, guaranteed by the constitution of the country and by international agreements where Belarus is a part. The situation of freedom of peaceful assemblies in Belarus remains below international standards and the situation show no signs of improvement, even compared to the violent crackdown of the demonstration after the election on 19 December 2010.
- The existing legal provisions require organizers of meetings and demonstrations to acquire permission from the authorities, rather that just sending a notification, which comes in contradiction with international standards, notably those reflected in the OSCE guidelines. At the same time, in practice it is nearly impossible to receive authorization to organize a demonstration or a picket. The only ones allowed were in remote areas, outside sight and sound of the intended audience;
- There is a very high risk that a public event which is considered “illegal” according to Belarus legislation will be violently dispersed by the authorities, and its participants will be detained and face disproportional violence. In the use of force the authorities make no distinction between participants on one hand and observers and journalists on the other;
- Participants of peaceful assemblies that are considered illegal are likely to face administrative arrest up to 15 days, which makes a disproportional punishment;
As an example of abusive dispersal of demonstration is the event of 19 December, when about 20 000 people came to the streets of Minsk to protest against the results of presidential elections. Official qualification of the actions by protesters range from mass disorder to violent misconduct, while renowned experts in the field of freedom of assembly working under the auspices of the Special Rapporteur of Committee of International Control over the Human Rights situation in Belarus# (CIC), claim that the only violent episode was distinctly remote from the main assembly and should be considered separately.
During this summer violations of right to peaceful assemblies continued with “silent rallies” in different cities of Belarus. The authorities responded with mass arrests of participants, by-passers and journalists and are now discussing new amendments to the legislation, where “common inactivity” of people could be estimated as picketing# and if no permission is secured in advance would be subject to dispersal.
Therefore we ask the Council to urge the government of Belarus to implement the following recommendations:
- To bring national legislation on freedom of assembly in compliance with international principles and standards,
- To restrain police officers from use of force against peaceful participants of assemblies and, observers. Guarantee freedom for journalists to observe and report (on assemblies without interference from the authorities).
- To extenuate the article 23.34 of national Administrative Code regarding the responsibility for participants and organizers of unlawful events;
- To invite the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association to Belarus in order to assist the government in moving towards better legal regulation and practice in the field of freedom of assembly.
Thank you, Madam President, for your attention.