New law on mass events targets silent protests

The Belarusian House of Representatives approved amendment to the law on mass events. The new statue qualifies “mass presence of citizens” in a public space “in order to express views or protest” as a rally, for which organizers need to obtain special permit.

According to the independent news portal, which reported the story, the new laws are prepared in response to the wave of so called silent protests that flooded Belarus this summer.

The amendment defines the new category of mass events. They are described as a “joint mass presence of citizens in a pre-planned public space, an open venue, and at a set time, in order to perform actions planned in advance”, and “called in by the Internet or other networks, in order to publicly express socio-political views or protest”.

In a draft law prepared by the government, it was written “in order to perform actions or inactions planned in advance”. Independent news outlets started to call the new law “a statue about inactions”. Finally, the word “inactions” was dropped from the amendment.

Treating such gatherings as rallies means that organizers will have to obtain an approval from local authorities to hold the event. So far the silent protests were organized without any special permits, but their participants were often detained and sentenced to few days in prison.

The silent protesters have not formally violated law because the participants did not bring any banners, nor did they chant or use any of the banned symbols. All they did was to show up on an agreed hour at a main city square and clap together. The information about the protests was posted in the Internet.

According to Charter 97, more than 2 thousand people have been detained and sentenced to few days in an arrest for participating in the silent protest.

OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights expressed its concern with the planned amendments of the law on mass events. The office found the statues divergent from the international standards.

According to Belarusian MP Anatoly Khwaz, the main objective of the law is to strengthen the security during the mass events.

Radio Svaboda also reported that the readings of the amendment were held during a session closed for the journalists.


See also