View Adopted: 2021.05.18
The author is a national of Belarus who claims that the State Party has violated his rights under articles 19, 2(2) and 2(3) of the Covenant. The author published an article on a German international broadcast company website entitled "Path of a smuggler: do Russian sanctions apply at border region?”. Within the following two months, a police report against him was drawn up and he was followingly found guilty of unlawful production and distribution of mass media products as he was not accredited by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He was fined 6 million Belarusian roubles ($560). All of the author’s appeals were rejected. The author claims that the Belorrusian courts failed to justify their denial of the author’s freedom of expression. This claim is to be read in conjunction with articles 2 (2) and 2 (3) of the Covenant as the judicial system did not present an effective remedy.
The Committee finds the author’s claim for article 2 in conjunction with article 19 inadmissible as the claim to breach of obligations under article 2 are not the cause of a distinct violation. The Committee finds sufficiently substantiated the claims under article 19(2).
The Committee observed that the State party failed to invoke any specific article 19(3) grounds to support the necessity or proportionality of the restrictions imposed on the author, as well as his administrative fine. The Committee reiterated that freedom of expression and of opinion are the foundation for every free and democratic society. Further, it noted that proportionality must be respected at all levels of the judicial and enforcement processes, by everyone applying the law.
In the absence of any justification by the State party, the Committee concluded that the author’s rights under article 19(2) had been violated.
Accordingly, the State party is obligated, inter alia, to provide him with adequate compensation and to take appropriate steps to reimburse any expenses incurred by the author, including reimbursement for the fine imposed and for court fees related to the case in question. The State party is also under an obligation to take all steps necessary to prevent similar violations from occurring in the future, in particular by reviewing its national legislation and the implementation thereof, in order to make it compatible with its obligations to adopt measures able to give effect to the rights recognized by article 19.
Deadline to provide follow-up information: 18.11.2021
Author: Laura Cestaro