Updated at 17:11,20-07-2018

Experts criticize new demonstration law


The new law governing demonstrations and other mass events has made it nearly impossible for people to exercise their freedom of assembly, legal experts told reporters in Minsk on Monday.

Alyaksey Kazlyuk and Mikhail Matskevich, of the Minsk-based Center for Legal Transformation, were summing up civil offense cases brought against demonstrators since the law's entry into force in December 2011.

They examined the trials of 50 people, who were arrested and charged with a civil offense over 42 demonstrations between December 9, 2011 and November 30, 2012.

According to Mr. Kazlyuk, although Belarus' constitution declares individuals' right to freedom of assembly, the law de facto denies this right.

The experts said that police officers did not have enough knowledge about freedom of assembly and their function to secure its observance. As a rule, police normally seek to abort any unauthorized demonstration, even if it constitutes no threat to public safety, Mr. Kazlyuk said. "In particular, this holds true for one-person protests and small demonstrations, which account for the majority of the examined cases," he noted.

The experts described authorities' interference in peaceful demonstrations as a "disproportionate measure that violates freedom of assembly and expression."

Judges that consider such cases are usually guided by the law and ignore the constitution and international treaties, Mr. Kazlyuk said.