The Police want to rewrite human rights activists’ freedom of peaceful assembly bill

The Partnership “For Freedom of Peaceful Assembly” points out that information provided by the Deputy Interior Minister Viktor Ratushnyak regarding a ban on wearing masks in the draft bill on freedom of peaceful assembly is not correct. In the draft law prepared by human rights groups and put forward for MPs to table, there is no such ban. The circulation of such information from the police indicates the intention to supplement the draft law with amendments which violate human rights.

The ban on wearing masks does not comply with international standards, for example, item 98 of the Explanatory Note to the Guidelines on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly adopted by the ODIHR / OSCE and Venice Commission. According to international standards, the wearing of masks may not be prohibited, and the police may demand that a mask be removed only if the person wearing it has committed an offence or is demonstrated a clear intent to commit such an action.

Members of the Partnership “For Freedom of Peaceful Assembly” are against the Interior Ministry’s initiative to issue an absolute ban on the use of masks during peaceful gatherings for the following reasons also:

–       it can make dramatized forms of peaceful assembly impossible. For example, participants in a protest may put on masks with the faces of politicians expressing in this way their attitude to them; or gas masks, protesting against torture by the police;

–       where tear gas is used, members of a gathering, like anybody else, must be able to protect their health by using means of individual protection.

Interior Ministry and Department of State Security officers do not usually have means of individual identification during peaceful gatherings.  In the event of unlawful actions or inaction, the public are restricted in their possibility to identify the offender. Therefore such proposals from the Interior Ministry should be preceded by the introduction of individual badges and sewn on patches with first and last names, the name of a person’s department and rank on the staff of all officers of the Interior Ministry and Department of State Security involved in maintaining order during peaceful gatherings.

The Partnership “For Freedom of Peaceful Assembly” calls on all human rights organizations to unite in upholding the liberal text of the draft Law on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly where the law enforcement bodies try to introduce dangerous amendments. 

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