Updated at 18:18,16-07-2018

Belrusians are piped down forever

On October 21 the Council of the Republic National Assembly adopted amendments to the Law on Mass Events.

The bill was passed by the House of Representatives on October 3, on the first day of the autumn session. It was considered at a closed meeting and in two readings. In contrast to the lower chamber, the Council of the Republic discussed it in an open format.

The bill was presented by Minister of Internal Affairs Anatoly Kuleshov. The document significantly tightens the rules for holding public events. Thus, organization of any citizens' gathering must be approved by the authorities. This applies to flashmobs and citizens' gathering organized by using the Internet.

According to the document, the people refused to be body-searched while entering mass events, are not allowed to pass. Also, people who are under the influence of alcohol and drugs are prohibited from participation in mass events.

Prior to receiving permission to hold a mass event, organizers have no legal right to declare its date, time and venue, also in the Internet. In addition, the organizers can not be the persons violated the order of holding this event within one year after imposing administrative penalties.

"The amendments are aimed at ensuring security of not a specific group of people, but the whole society," said Kuleshov. He also argues that, while proceeding the bill, an analogous international legislation has been studied, and the Belarusian law is "the most democratic in comparison with those of the developed democratic countries."

Holding of mass events is not regulated anywhere, the way as it is in Belarus, Minister added.

Following the bill presentation, the upper house speaker Anatoly Rubinov proposed to discuss the question of whether the amendments are unconstitutional, as stated by human rights organizations that have passed an appeal to the Council of the Republic. In this case Rubinov listed 15 human rights organizations signed the appeal, and expressed his surprise: "How come we don't have democracy, when there are so many human rights organizations?".

During the discussion, parliamentarians came to a conclusion on constitutionality of the amendments to Law on Mass Events.

Discussion and adoption of the bill by the Council of the Republic, which was sharply criticized by Belarusian and international human rights advocates, took half an hour. In order to take effect the law must be signed by the president.

Today the Council of the Republic also adopted amendments to several laws, under which any protests without permission are prohibited, and any foreign funding of NGOs in Belarus, which is against the law, becomes a criminal offence.

The document prohibits republican and local public associations and their unions to keep cash, precious metals and other valuables in banks and non-bank financial institutions in a territory of foreign states.

As the head of the committee on legislation and state construction Evgeny Smirnov has stated during the bill discussion, "the leaders of unauthorized events are not guided by interests of their people". According to him, it's immoral "to parasitize" on temporary economic difficulties.

"The economic laws of society don't always obey the people themselves, and no governments can cope with them. The use of economic hardship is one of the tools to confront the authorities. That's why this bill has appeared", said Smirnov.