View Adopted: 2022.07.01
The author of the communication is the Belarusian national Chair of the Jehovah’s Witness Community in Rahachow. Whilst the Community held its religious services at the residence of one of its members, which law enforcement officials had been aware of, the author was convicted and fined for organizing the event without authorization. The Supreme Court dismissed his appeal holding that the restrictions were in the interest of public order, protection of public health or morals, and rights and freedoms of others. The author claims that his prosecution and conviction violate article 18 (1) due to the interference with his right to freely manifest his religious beliefs in community with others, article 19 (2) on freedom of expression, article 21 on freedom of assembly, and article 22 (1) on freedom of association.
The State party failed to provide any information regarding the admissibility or the merits of the author’s claims, and since all available domestic remedies have been exhausted, the Committee declared the claims under articles 18 (1), 19 (2), 21 and 22 (1) of the Covenant admissible.
The Committee observes that, while the Regional Court convicted the author in the interest of public order, protection of public health or morals and rights and freedoms of others, it failed to provide any justification for such restrictions. By convicting and fining the author for conducting religious services, the State party violated his rights under article 18 (1). The Committee does not deem it necessary to examine whether the same facts constitute a violation of articles 19, 21 and 22 of the Covenant.
The State Party, in furtherance of its obligation to provide the author with an effective remedy, is obligated, inter alia:
(a) To take appropriate steps to provide the author with adequate compensation, including reimbursement for the fines imposed and for court fees related to the case; and
(b) To take all steps necessary to prevent similar violations from occurring in the future, including by reviewing its domestic legislation, regulations and/or practices with a view to ensuring that the rights under the Covenant be fully enjoyed by the State party.
Deadline: January 1, 2023
More information on the case:
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights – From the European Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses: Contribution for the 36th Session of the UPR (April – May 2020): Belarus
By: Smrithi Ramakrishnan