View Adopted: 2021.06.23
The author of the communication is Roman Yurgel, a Belarusian national. On the anniversary of the day of establishment of the Belarus People’s Republic (BPR), the author with two persons took photos holding the BPR’s flag and the national flag of Ukraine in three locations in the city of Grodno. The photos were posted online, and a police record was drawn against the author, charging him with participating in an unauthorized mass event. The Court of Lenin District in Grodno found the author guilty of participating in an unauthorized picket and fined him. The Court concluded that by doing this, the author tried to attract the attention of citizens to the event.
The author claims that the State party has violated his rights under article 14 (1) in conjunction with article 2 (1) and (3) of the Covenant, as in his view, he was not afforded a fair and impartial hearing. He also claims that the court proceedings were in violation of article 26 of the Covenant as he was discriminated on the basis of his political opinion and that no legal protection in the State party exists against discrimination on the grounds of political views. Lastly, the author claims that his rights under article 19(2), in conjunction with article 2 (1) and (3) of the Covenant were violated by the State party since he was prevented from freely expressing his views.
Regarding the alleged violations of article 14 (1), read in conjunction with articles 2 (1) and (3) and 26 of the Covenant, the Committee considers that the claim that the author was denied the right to a fair hearing because of his political stance is insufficiently substantiated for purposes of admissibility. As for the claims under article 19 (2), read in conjunction with article 2(1) and (3), of the Covenant, in the absence of any further pertinent information on file, the Committee considers that the author has failed to sufficiently substantiate them for the purposes of admissibility as well. Lastly, the Committee considers the author’s remaining claims under article 19 (2) of the Covenant sufficiently substantiated for the purposes of admissibility.
The Committee recalls that it is for the State party to demonstrate that the restrictions on the author’s rights under article 19 of the Covenant were necessary and proportionate. Neither the State party nor the domestic courts have provided any explanation as to how the restrictions in question were justified for the purposes as set out in article 19 (3) of the Covenant, and whether the penalty imposed was necessary, proportionate and in compliance with any of the legitimate purposes listed in this provision. The Committee concludes that the rights of the author under article 19 (2) have been violated.
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 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.
December 23, 2021