Belarus funeral action invites police action

by J-Touchette

Russian revolutionaries Vladimir Ilyich Lenin and Joseph Stalin together. According to the declassified Soviet archives, during 1937 and 1938, the The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD) detained 1,548,366 victims, of whom 681,692 were shot. Historians believe the number of victims to be much higher.

On October 30, 2007, Siarhei Kavalenka took part in a civil funeral procession outside Vitsebsk. The action was devoted to the victims of Stalin’s repressions in the 1930s-1950s and was attended by over 30 members of their families.

The memorial action took place at the execution and burial spots of repressed people, in several villages. The activists were going to install a cross and lay flowers on the place of mass executions. However, they were approached by police, with Deputy Chair of the Vitsebsk District Police Department Major Lilenka, who named the funeral procession an unauthorized picket and suggested stopping it.

Despite the threats, Siarhei Kavalenka, together with his fellow activists, went on with the funeral rites. When the action was over and its participants came back to the bus, Major Lilenka said they all were detained as participants of an unauthorized picket. The activists protested against the arrest, but had to obey the order.

They were taken to Vitsebsk District Police Department, where Siarhei Kavalenka was charged with participating in an unauthorized mass action.

Thus, the police stopped a civil funeral procession, which was not a political action and its participants did not have to apply for a permit. Also, funeral rites are a natural activity and are not regulated by the law.

The civil funeral attended by Mr.Kavalenka was a peaceful assembly and could not undermine national security, public order, morals or health of citizens. Nor did it restrict the freedoms of other people. None of the action participants was charged with material or moral damage.

Having exhausted all domestic remedies, Siarhei Kavalenka has drawn up a complaint and submitted it to the UN Human Rights Committee. The complaint was registered as Case #1808.

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