View Adopted: 2020.07.23
The author is a national of Belarus who claims that the State party has violated his rights under article 19 of the Covenant
On 8 October 2012, the author was arrested by the police for hanging a piece of fabric with the slogan “Freedom to Belarusian political prisoners” written on it over the rails of a road bridge. The author did not consider it necessary to request authorization from the city authorities for a one-person picket in order to publicly express his opinion. On the same day, the author was found to be in violation of the procedure of organizing and holding mass events and was fined 300,000 Belarusian roubles (approximately $35)
Following a series of appeals, the author submits that he has exhausted all available and effective remedies. He claims that the sanction imposed on him for expressing his opinion amounts to a violation on his right to the freedom of expression. He also submits that the courts did not assess how his acts had endangered national security, public order, public health, or the right of reputations of others. He also alleges that he did not organize a public event and was therein wrongly qualified by the courts – in being a one-person picket rather than a mass event.
The Committee regretted the lack of cooperation from the State party which did not provide information and its observations on the admissibility and the merits of the present communication.
The Committee recalled that it is up to the State party to demonstrate that the restrictions imposed on the author’s right to the freedom of expression were necessary and proportionate. In the absence of such information, the Committee observed that nothing on file suggests that domestic authorities reviewed the case in light of the standards of necessity and proportionality under article 19 of the Covenant. Similarly, no explanation has been provided by the State party 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 in light of article 19 (3) of the Covenant. In light of these circumstances, it found that the sanctions could not be seen as justified for the purpose of article 19 (3) of the Covenant. It also found, in line with the author’s second claim and in the absence of a state explanation, that a general rule requiring prior authorization for a public expression of one’s persons political opinion does not meet the standards of necessity and proportionality enshrined in article 19 (3). As such, in two-fold, the Committee found that the State had 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 reimbursement of his fine and any related court expenses. The State party is also under an obligation to take all steps necessary to prevent similar violations from occurring in the future. In that regard, the Committee notes that the State party should revise its normative framework on public events, in accordance with its obligation under article 2 (2), with a view to ensuring that the rights under article 19 of the Covenant may be fully enjoyed in the State party.