In Belarus, the freedom of assembly is regulated by law № 114-З “On mass events” as of December 30, 1997. Prior authorization regarding the holding of peaceful assemblies is required.
Procedure for organizing meetings
- organizers of meetings for up to 1000 people must have reached 18 years of age and be citizens of Belarus permanently residing in the country;
- organizers of assembly of more than 1000 people must be political parties, trade unions or other organizations;
- the application should be submitted no later than 15 days prior to the date on which the planned meeting is to take place;
- local authorities shall announce the decision concerning authorization not later than 5 days prior to the date on which the mass event is to be held;
- organizers bear the expenses for the security provided by the police, medical service, and the ground maintenances and should cover charges no later than 10 days after the event.
What is allowed by the law?
We have analyzed the existing laws concerning the freedom of assembly in Belarus. According to these documents, all the actions we have considered are not allowed.
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Restrictions on the right to freedom of assembly
It is prohibited:
- to hold spontaneous meetings;
- to hold meetings in the night-time;
- to organize demonstrations near the buildings representing the authority of the State, its agencies and important infrastructural facilities;
- to cover faces with masks;
- to hold more than one public assembly at the same place and time;
- to conduct preliminary agitation campaigns prior to authorization of the meeting.
- participants can be fined up to $367 or detained for 5 days while organizers can face a fine of up to $489;
- organizers can be imprisoned for up to three years for calling for or compelling people to take part in mass events that resulted in the death of people, serious bodily injury or substantial material damage;
- repeated violations of these regulations within one year shall entail a fine in the amount of $625 or arrest for 15 days;
- officials can be fined up to $245 for illegitimately obstructing public assemblies or compelling people to take part in them.
Commentaries of experts and participants of public events
Actions participants and civil activists from Belarus note that the authorities systematically restrict the right to freedom of assembly. Rallies rarely occur whereas participants are most often detained by police and fined.
According to respondents, the most difficult part is to get permission to hold a mass event: organizers must enter into a contract with local authorities on security provided by the police, cleaning of the area and medical services but civil servants refuse to enter into such contracts without authorization to hold an assembly. At the same time, the authorization is often not issued without a signed contract. Complications repeatedly arise when organizing LGBT-related actions as well as rallies related to criticism of the government.
Participants and organizers of mass events can appeal to the actions of civil servants or law enforcement agencies, however, our respondents claim that in practice, courts always rule in favour of government officials.
The UN Human Rights Committee made several dozens of decisions on violation of the right to freedom of assembly in the country; nonetheless, the authorities of Belarus consider them advisory and do not comply.