View Adopted: 2020.07.23
The author of the communication is a national of Belarus who claims that the State party has violated his rights under article 19 of the Covenant, read in conjunction with article 2 (2) and (3).
On 11 November 2013, the author was arrested by the police for hanging a banner in front of the building of the Gomel Regional Executive Committee in protest against the sale of alcoholic beverages near schools. The author had not requested authorization from the city authorities to hold a picket, due to previous unsuccessful experience. He was found guilty of a violation of the procedure for organizing or holding mass events and was fined 1,300,000 roubles (the equivalent of $100). Following appeals by the author were unsuccessful.
On 11 March 2014, the author was arrested by the police for holding a banner in front of the embassy of the Russian Federation in Minsk, protesting against the war in Ukraine. On the same day, he was found guilty of holding a picket without seeking authorization. As it amounted to a repeated violation within one year, the Court sentenced him to 15 days of administrative arrest.
In light of the above, the author claims that the sanctions imposed on him amounted a violation on his freedom of expression under article 19 of the Covenant, read in conjunction with article 2 (2) and (3). He maintains that the restrictions imposed on him were not necessary for the respect of the rights or reputations of others or for the protection of national security or public order, or of public health or morals. According to him, the courts did not assess how his acts had endangered national security, public order or public health or the rights and freedoms of others.
The Committee regretted the failure of the State to provide any information with regard to the admissibility or the merits of the author’s claims. It noted that in the absence of a reply, due weight must be given to the author’s allegation, to the extent that they are substantiated.
In the Committee’s opinion the actions of the authorities, irrespective of their legal qualification, amount to a limitation of the author’s rights, in particular the right to impart information and ideas of all kinds, as protected under article 19 (2) of the Covenant. It recalled that it is for the State party to demonstrate that the restrictions on the author’s rights under article 19 were necessary and proportionate. It observed that nothing on file suggests that the domestic authorities reviewed the author's case in light of the standards of necessity and proportionality under article 19 of the Covenant. Similarly, no explanation had been provided as to how the author’s actions were endangering the rights or reputations of others, national security, or public order, or public health or morals and why the restrictions imposed on him were necessary. In light of the above, the Committee concluded that the State party has violated the author’s rights under article 19 (2) of the Covenant.
Pursuant to article 2 (3) (a) of the Covenant, the State party is under an obligation to provide the author with an effective remedy. This requires it to make full reparation to individuals whose Covenant rights have been violated. Accordingly, the State party is obligated, inter alia, to take appropriate steps to provide the author with adequate compensation, including reimbursement of the value of the fine imposed and any legal costs incurred by him. The State party is also under an obligation to take all steps necessary to prevent similar violations occurring in the future. In that connection, the Committee notes that the State party should review its normative framework on public events, consistent with its obligation under article 2 (2) of the Covenant, with a view to ensuring that the rights under article 19 may be fully enjoyed in the State party.