View Adopted: 2020.07.23
The authors of the communication are nationals of Belarus. They claim that the State Party has violated their rights under articles 19 and 21 of the Covenant, read in conjuction with article 2 (2) and (3).
On 15 April 2013, the authors sought the authorization to hold a series of 12 pickets of 20 persons each at different locations in the city of Gomel. The aim of the pickets was to attract public attention to the absence of effective criminal investigations into the disappearances of famous politicians in Belarus. On 2013, their authorization was refused by way of reference to the fact that they had failed to fulfil the requirements set out in decision No. 299 on the holding of public events in the city of Gomel. The authorities also noted that the authors’ intended locations differed from those designated and that they had failed to conclude the required contracts with city services for the maintenance of security and for medical assistance and cleaning. The authors following appeals to this decision were unsuccessful.
The authors claim that neither local authorities nor the courts considered whether the limitations imposed under decision No. 299 were justified by reasons of national security or public safety, public order or protection of public health or morals, nor whether they were necessary for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. They also claim that the restricting of all public events to a single, remote location limits and the requirement to conclude paid contracts with city services beforehand limits the very essence of articles 19 and 21 of the Covenant. The authors also claim that the State party is not fulfilling its obligations under article 2 (2), read in conjunction with articles 19 and 21 of the Covenant since the Public Events Act contains vague and ambiguous provisions.
The Committee ascertained that it was not precluded by article 5 (2) (a) and (b) of the Optional Protocol from examining the present communication. It also recalled that article 2 of the Covenant sets forth a general obligation for State parties and cannot give rise, when invoked separately, to a claim in a communication. The Committee, therefore, considered that this part of the authors’ claim was inadmissible. Owing to sufficient substantiation, the Committee declared the communication in relation to the remainder of claims of article 19 and 21 as admissible and proceeded to the consideration of merits
The Committee observed that neither the State party nor the domestic courts had provided any explanation or observatiosn as to how such restrictions on the freedom of expression, namely limiting pickets to a certain predetermined location and requiring that the organizers conclude service contracts with a number of municipal agencies in order to hold a picket met the conditions of necessity and proportionality. In the absence of such explanations, the Committee concluded that the authors’ rights under article 19 (2) of the Covenant had been violated.
In the consideration of the author’s claims under the right of peaceful assembly, the Committee similarly noted that the municipal authorities have not provided any justification or explanation as to how, in practice, the authors’ pickets would have endangered the interests of national security or public safety, public order, or the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. Accordingly, it concluded that the authors’ rights under article 21 of the Covenant had also been violated.