Applications for pickets for release of political prisoners, filed by human rights activists within the framework of the Day of Solidarity with Belarusian civil society, were turned down by the local authorities in Navapolatsk, Vitsebsk, Homel, Mozyr, Rechytsa, Zhodzina, Barysau, Baranavichy, Smarhon and Mahiliou.
As stated by the coordinator of the regional offices of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” Dzmitry Salauyou, the prohibitions have formal grounds and came as no surprise to the applicants. Absence of service contracts with law enforcement agencies, medical service and the public utilities – this reason is stated in refusals to all applications for mass events filed by civil society activists.
“These grounds for banning pickets do not comply with the current legislation. According to a regulation of the Council of Ministers, the concern for the protection of policemen events rests with the executive committees, which themselves must send to the local police departments copies of the received applications for mass events, and then solve this issue with the latter ones. Applicants themselves do not have to go and beg them to conclude such contracts. This is the countrywide practice,” argues Mr. Salauyou.
He also called another wide spread reason for picket bans: “Some activists want to hold pickets in crowded areas in the city center, because there is no sense in holding them in the places designated by the executive committees – somewhere in the stadium or near the forest on the outskirts where nobody walks. Receiving prohibitions for this reason, we have repeatedly addressed the authorities with the requirement to determine normal sites in crowded places so that the people could really their right to disseminate and receive information and the right to peaceful assembly, without turning it into a sham,” says Dmitry Salauyou.
The human rights activists will appeal the picket bans and also require amendments to the list of the places approved for mass events.