22 July 2019, Monday, 18:10
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Money Out Of Thin Air, Or Robbery In Broad Daylight

MIKHAIL PASTUKHOU

On the “extortionate” resolution of the Rumas government.

The steering committee for the creation of the Belarusian Christian Democracy Party is collecting signatures against the Government Resolution # 49 of January 24, 2019. This resolution establishes payment for holding mass events.

How legitimate is the resolution, and what should we expect from its implementation?

What is the petition about?

The signatories of the collective appeal believe that the resolution mentioned above limits their right to freedom of peaceful assembly, guaranteed by Article 35 of the Constitution. Moreover, this restriction applies to all public events that are held by both citizens and political parties, religious and other public associations. True, an exception was made for the events held by decision of state bodies.

In their appeal, the authors of the petition rightly recognize the government’s resolution as discriminatory and unconstitutional. At the same time, they reasonably indicate that police officers, like doctors, receive salaries for fulfilling their duties from the state budget and do not have the right to rely on any kind of “supplements” from citizens. In addition, the right to peaceful assembly is guaranteed not only by the country's Constitution, but also by the international acts, which the Republic of Belarus ratified and pledged to respect.

The signatories demand that the resolution must be canceled, and propose to settle the issue of payment for the police services for the protection of public order only in relation to commercial mass events (for example, concerts of pop stars, sports, exhibitions).

The collected signatures will be submitted to the Council of Ministers and the “House of Representatives”. So to speak, to notify. I myself also committed a civil act and put my signature under the collective appeal. Now, along with all the signatories, I will wait for the reaction of the authorities to our fair demands.

Human rights activists also spoke out

10 Belarusian human rights organizations, including the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, Legal Initiative, the Belarusian PEN Center, and the human rights center Viasna, expressed their attitude to Resolution #49 in a joint statement. In particular, they pointed to the fact that the organizers of the “Chernobyl Way” procession had to withdraw the application, previously filed to the Minsk city executive committee. The reason was the need to pay the cost of holding this event in the amount of BYN 5,737. For the same reason, representatives of independent trade unions refused to hold the May Day demonstration.

In a joint statement, human rights organizations recalled that for refusing to pay the expenses of holding Freedom Day on March 24 in Minsk, its organizers - Yury Hubarevich, Mikalai Kazlou, Ihar Barysau and Volha Kavalkova - were brought to responsibility under Part 2 of Article 23.34 of the Code of Administrative Offenses, and punished with a fine of 30 base fees each (BYN 765).

According to the authors of the statement, “... with the adoption of Resolution # 49, the situation with the realization of the freedom of peaceful assembly by citizens has deteriorated even more, since the amount of the cost of their implementation provided for by the legislation is a serious obstacle to the realization of guaranteed constitutional freedoms”.

Human rights activists demanded from the authorities to guarantee citizens the possibility of exercising their freedom of peaceful assembly and expression, and also to stop the practice of bringing citizens to responsibility for the exercise of constitutional rights and freedoms.

What will the resolution # 49 lead to?

It can be assumed that the government, under the leadership of Siarhei Rumas, adopted this “extortionate” decision against their will. On the one hand, the calculation was apparently made to bring down a wave of protest mood during the preparation of election campaigns. On the other hand, there was a mercantile interest: to earn money from the organizers of public events, who are fully responsible for the course and results of the action.

However, as is often the case, the developers of the resolution did not take everything into account. They extended the resolution to literally all public events held in the open air and in the premises. As a result, the organizers must pay for the services of the police for the protection of public order, as well as doctors and janitors. Depending on the number of participants of the event, the amount of services varies from 3 base fees (BYN 76.5) to 250 (BYN 6,375).

In a short time, it became clear that the wording of the resolution should be clarified, limiting the scope of its application. But its main drawback is that a lot of money is required to be paid for the realization of rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. In fact, this is money out of thin air, or robbery in broad daylight.

It turns out that the government, in spite of its duty “... to take measures to ensure the rights and freedoms of citizens” (Article 107 of the Constitution) has taken the path of violating the rights and freedoms of citizens.

However, no one is responsible for issuing a clearly unconstitutional act. The prosecutor's office is silent, the preliminary investigation bodies remain inactive. The subjects authorized to respond to every fact of violation of the Constitution, including the “deputies” of the “chamber of representatives”, the Supreme Court, do not take initiatives either.

As a result, the public and political life in Belarus has stopped. Citizens are forced to watch developments from the windows of their apartments, on television and the Internet. Rallies, marches, demonstrations and even pickets became prohibited due to the establishment of high tariffs on them. Only the hope for participating in state holidays, for which no payment has yet been established, remains.

Mikhail Pastukhou, Doctor of Law, Professor, sn-plus.com