GENEVA (24 November 2011) – Three United Nations independent experts warned that the new legislative amendments recently adopted by the National Assembly of Belarus may severely and arbitrarily restrict the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, association and expression, and breach international law.

“These amendments could constitute a direct affront to the exercise of fundamental civil and political rights which are at the core of any democratic society, such as the rights to assembly and to associate freely,” said the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Mr. Maina Kiai.

Mr. Kiai recalled that the National Assembly of Belarus introduced changes to the Laws on Public Associations, Political Parties, Public Gatherings and Administrative Violations, as well as the Criminal and the Election Codes, “in a legislative process that lacked proper consultation with civil society.”

According to the new legislation, organizing assemblies without the prior and explicit consent of the incumbent authorities is now considered a criminal offense, and new reporting liabilities are imposed on organisers concerning the financial resources used for such assemblies. Disseminating information, including through the social media, without any permission for assembly is also strictly prohibited, as well as any public call for initiating assemblies. (more…)