Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections

Праваабарончы цэнтр «Вясна» беларускі хельсінкскі камітэт


Smarhoń: government moving campaigners away from its buildings

Before the presidential election that took place in 2010, the Smarhoń district executive committee prohibited holding pickets in order to collect signatures in the places impeding the movement of vehicles and pedestrians; posing a danger to the life and health of citizens; at railway transport facilities; at the entrances to the organizations and religious institutions.

According to a publication in the local newspaper Svietly šliach of July 17, the District Executive Committee banned the following locations by its decision of July 14: less than 50 meters from the local executive and administrative bodies, courts, prosecutor's offices; on the territory of education and healthcare facilities; the territory of the railway stations, bus stations, on public transport.

Local human rights defenders say it is step back as compared with the 2010 election campaign.

For example, in 2010 it was only prohibited to picket at the entrances to government agencies, courts, prosecutor's offices. But five years later democracy has ‘rolled back’ by as much as 50 meters.

Again, during the campaign of 2010 one could not picket in front of the institutions of education and health care. Now the officials added a ban on collecting signatures in the territory of these institutions. And this is despite the fact that the borders of local clinics and the majority of schools can be remember, perhaps, by only a narrow circle of architects and managers. For example, one health center in Smarhoń is located in a dormitory, another in an apartment building. How can you decide then?

In addition, restrictions have been extended to the bus station and public transport. Regarding the latter, it is a ridiculous ban. After all, it is difficult to picket on a bus or a taxi.

The fact that the officials have lifted a ban on picketing at the entrances to other organizations and religious institutions does not compensate for the ban on picketing within 50 meters of the above-mentioned government institutions, the court and the prosecutor's office. After all, according to the practice of election campaigns, no pickets have ever been staged at the entrances to enterprises and religious institutions. Therefore, the ban had no practical value.

Surprisingly, the Smarhoń District Executive Committee has not mentioned the local branch of the KGB and the district police department, the main entrance of which are located across the street from the courthouse.

"Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections"