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Katsora v Belarus, UN Human Rights Committee Communication No. 1836/2008

GE.12-48306
Human Rights Committee
Communication No. 1836 /2008
Views adopted by the Committee at its 106th session ( 15 October –2
November 2012)
Submitted by: Vladimir Katsora (not represented by counsel)
All eged victim : The author
State party: Belarus
Date of communication: 20 May 2008 (initial submission)
Document references: Special Rapporteur’s rule 97 decision,
tran smitted to the State party on 10 December
2008 (not issued in document form)
Date of adoption of decision : 24 October 2012
Subject matter: Imposition of an administrative arrest to an
individual for having distributed leaflets in
violation of the right to disseminate information
without unreasonable restrictions
Procedural issues: Exhaustion of domestic remedies
Substantiv e issues: Right to impart information; permissible
restrictions
Articles of the Covenant: 2; 19; 2 1
Article of the Optional Protocol: 5, paragraph 2 (b)
United Nations CCPR /C/106/D/ 18 36 /20 08

International Covenant on
Civil and Political R ights
Distr.: General
28 Novem ber 2012

Original: English

CCPR/C/106/D /1836/2008
2
Annex
Views of the Human Rights Committee under article 5,
paragraph 4, of the Optional Protocol to the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ( one hundred and
sixth session )
concerning
Communication No. 18 36 /20 08 *
Submit ted by: Vladimir Katsora (not represented by counsel)
All eged victim : The author
State party: Belarus
Date of communication: 20 May 2008 (initial submission)
The Human Rights Committee , established under article 28 of the International
Covenant on Civil a nd Political Rights,
Meeting on 24 October 2012,
Having concluded its consideration of communication No. 18 36/2008, submitted to
the Human Rights Committee by Vladimir Katsora under the Optional Protocol to the
International Covenant on Civil and Politic al Rights,
Having taken into account all written information made available to it by the author
of the communication and the State party,
Adopts the following :
Views under article 5, paragraph 4, of the Optional Protocol
1. The author is V ladimir K atso ra, a Belarusian national born in 1983 . He claims to be
a victim of violation s by the State party of his rights under article s 19, paragraph 2 , and 21 ,
read in conjunction with article 2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights . The Opti onal Protocol entered into force for Belarus on 30 December 1992. The
author is not represented by counsel .
The f acts as presented by the author
2.1 In April 2006, the author, then deputy chairperson of the Gomel regional branch of
the United Civic Party organization , printed out and distributed leaflets, informing the
Gomel population about a meeting intended to take place in this city, on 25 April 2006,
without however indicating either exact place or time of the event . When the leaflets were

* The following members of the Committee participated in the examination of the present
communication: Mr. Yadh Ben Achour, Mr. Lazhari Bouzid, Mr . Ahmad Amin Fathalla, Mr. Cornelis
Flinterman, Mr. Yuji Iwasawa, Mr. Walter Kälin, Ms. Zonke Zanele Majodina, Ms. Iulia Antoanela
Motoc, Mr. Gerald L. Neuman, Mr. Michael O’Flaherty, Mr. Rafael Rivas Posada, Sir Nigel Rodley,
Mr. Fabián Omar Salvioli, Mr. Marat Sarsembayev, Mr. Krister Thelin and Ms. Margo Waterval.

CCPR/C/106/D/1836/2008
3
distribute d, the author, as an organi zer, had yet not receive d the authori zation o f the Gomel
Regional Executive Committee to conduct the event in question. Under article 8 of the Law
on Mass Events of 30 December 1997, before receiving authori zation to hold a mass event ,
the organi zer(s) or other persons have no right to announce in mass media information
concerning the date, place and the time of its holding, or to prepare and distribute leaflets,
posters and other materials in this regard.
2.2 On 14 April 2006, th e police seized a number of the leaflets in question, which were
distributed by other individuals in Gomel. On 18 April 2006, the Zheleznodorozhny District
Court of Gomel found the author guilty of having committed an administrative offence
under article 1 67 -1, part 1, of the Code on Administrative Offences (breach of the
procedure for organiz ing and conduct of events, assemblies, etc. ) and sentenced him to 10
days of administrative arrest. On an unspecified date, the author complained to the Gomel
Regional Court. On 23 May 2006, the Chairperson of the Gomel Regional Court upheld the
ruling of the Zheleznodorozhny District Court of Gomel. The author explains that he did
not appeal the ruling of the Gomel Regional Court to the Supreme Court, a s according to
him, supervisory review proce edings in Belarus are ineffective, as t hey do not
automatically result in the review of the case. He refers to the Committee’s case law ,
according to which only available and effective remedies are to be exhausted.
2.3 Subsequen tly, o n 12 February 2008, the author printed out and distributed leaflets,
informing the population about a forth coming debate between Aleksander Milinkevich,
former presidential candidate, and citizens of Gomel , to take place on 15 February 2008 .
On 13 Fe bruary 2008, the author was summoned to the Department of Internal Affairs of
the Soviet District of Gomel, where a record stating that he ha d committed an
administrative offence under article 23.34, part 2, of the Code o f Administrative Offences
(breach o f the order for organization or conduct of a mass action or picket) was drawn up.
On the same day, the Sov iet District Court in Gomel found the author guilty of having
committed an administrative offence under article 23.34, part 2, of the Code of
Administ rative Offences and sentenced him to seven days ’ administrative arrest .
2.4 On 21 March 2008, on appeal, the Gomel Regional Court confirmed the ruling of the
Sov iet District Court of Gomel ; the decision was final and enforceable. The author
complained to t he Supreme Court and , on 13 May 2008, a Deputy Chairperson of the
Supreme Court rejected h is request to have the case examined under the s upervisory review
proceedings. In his reply, the Deputy Chairperson specifically referred to article 8 of the
Law on Mass Events and the fact that the leaflets in question were printed and distributed in
the absence of official permission to organize a public debate with Mr. Milinkevich in
Gomel.
2.5 The author observes that article 8 of the Law on Mass Events prohibit ing the
announcement in mass media of the date, venue and time of holding of a mass action and
the preparation and distribution of the leaflets, posters and other materials for this purpose
before the receipt of authori zation to hold the mass action in questi on do es not meet the
requirement of necessity: (a) for respect of the rights or reputations of others; (b) for the
protection of national security or of public order, or of public health or morals , as required
by article 19, paragraph 3, of the Covenant . He notes that ar ticle 35 of the Belarus
Constitution guarantees the right to hold assemblies, rallies, street marches, demonstrations
and pickets , provided they do not disturb law and order or violate the rights of other
citizens ; this article also stipulat es that the procedure for conducting the above events shall
be determined by law. According to the author the law in question – the Law on Mass
Events and its article 8 in particular – is incompatible with the requirements of article s 19
and 21 of the Cove nant.
The complaint
3. The author claims to be a victim of violations b y the State party of his rights under
article 19, paragraph 2 , and article 21 ; both read in conjunction with article 2 of the

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Covenant, as the authorities have effectively deprived hi m, without justification, of the right
to freedom of expression and the right of peaceful assembly.
State party’s observations on admissibility and merits
4.1 By note verbale of 19 February 2008, the State party explained that under article 35
of the Con stitution, the freedom to hold assemblies, rallies, street processions ,
demonstrations, and pickets which do not disturb the law and order and do not violate the
rights of the other citizens is guaranteed by the State ; the procedure for conducting such
eve nts shall be determined by law. The 1997 Law on Mass Events sets up such a procedure
and is aimed at creating conditions for the realisation of the citizens’ constitutional rights
and freedoms and the protection of public safety and public order during the holding of
such events on the streets, in squares and at other public locations.
4.2 The State party recalls that on 18 April 2006, the Zheleznodorozhny District Court
of Gomel found the author guilty under article 167 -1 of the Code of Administrative
Offe nces for having breached the procedure for organi zing a meeting and he was sentenced
to 10 days of administrative arrest. This decision was confirmed by the Gomel Regional
Court on 23 May 2006.
4.3 On 13 February 2008, the Court of the Soviet District in G omel sentenced the author
to 7 days of administrative arrest, for having breached article 23. 34, part 2, of the Code of
Administrative Offences (non -respect of the procedure for organizing a meeting). On 21
March 2008, this decision was confirmed on appeal by the Gomel Regional Court. On 13
May 2008, a Deputy Chairperson of the Supreme Court rejected the author’s request to
have the case examined under supervisory review proceedings.
4.4 The State party points out that , under article 12.11 of the Procedural -Execution Code
of Administrative Offences , requests to have a final decision examined under supervisory
review proceedings shall be submitted within sixth months after the adoption of the final
decision; no claim would be examined after the elapsing of th is time limit. The author has
thus failed to exhaust available domestic remedies, as he did not seek a supervisory review
of his case with the Chairperson of the Supreme Court and the General Prosecutor’s Office.
The author’s contention that supervisory re view is not an effective judicial remedy as it
does not lead to the re -examination of a case is, according to the State party, a personal
opinion of the author, unsupported by evidence. In addition, the author is not consistent, as
in 2006, he did not subm it a supervisory review complaint, but in 2008, he complained to
the Supreme Court under the supervisory proceedings; therefore, the author recogni zed the
effectiveness of the proceedings.
4.5 The State party provide s details on the possibility of filing appeals against court
decisions concerning administrative offences, including through requests for supervisory
review. It maintains that supervisory review proceedings constitute an effective remedy. In
this context, the State party explains that , of 2 ,739 appeals received by the Prosecutor’s
Office in 2008 against ruling s concerning cases of administrative offences, 422 were
satisfied. During this period, the General Prosecutor’s Office had introduced 105 protest
motions to the Supreme Court concerning such cases and 101 of them were satisfied.
4.6 On 26 May 2009, the State party reiterated its previous observations and added that
article 8 of the Law on Mass Events forbids any announcements concerning an event that is
yet not authori zed in the mass media (c oncerning date, venue, etc. ), or to produce related
leaflets, posters and other materials. Mr. Katsora was distributing leaflets containing
information concerning a meeting with Mr. Milinkevich in February 2008, prior to
receiv ing authori zation for the mee ting and for this reason his liability was engaged
correctly.
4.7 The State party explains that its laws do not contradict article 21 of the Covenant. It
notes that this provision allows for restrictions on the freedom of assembly, if imposed in
conformity with the law and necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national

CCPR/C/106/D/1836/2008
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security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or
morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. Article 19, paragraph 3, of the
Covenant, similarly, permits restrictions to freedom of expression; the restrictions shall be
provided by law and necessary for respect of the rights or reputations of others; or for the
protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or
morals. The Covenant’s provisions are included in national law. In particular, article 33 of
the Constitution guarantees the freedom of opinion, conscience and their free expression.
Article 35 of the Constitution guarantees the freedom of assembly and holding of meetings,
street processions, demonstrations and picketing which do not breach the public order and
rights of others.
4.8 The State party adds that article 23 of the Constitution allows for the restriction of
individ ual rights and freedoms but only in cases provided by law and necessary in the
interests of national security, public order, protection of the morals, public health, rights
and freedoms of others. Under article 35 of the Constitution protecting freedom of
assembly, the procedure for conducting mass events shall be determined by law . The law
adopted by the authorities in this connection is the Law on Mass Events (1997). This law
established an authori zation and not a notification regime. Restrictions can onl y be imposed
if they are provided by law and are in the interest of national security, public order, and
protection of morals, health and rights and freedoms of others.
Author ’s comments on the State party ’s observations
5.1 On 11 April 2009, the author noted that under article 5, paragraph 2, of the Optional
Protocol, individuals must exhaust all available domestic remedies. He recalls that in its
case law, the Committee has concluded that supervisory review is not a remedy which shall
be exhausted. He d id not use all procedural possibilities to file a supervisory review appeal,
as he believes that only ordinary appeals lead to a systematic review of a case; according to
him, supervisory review does not lead to a re -examination of a case. Thus, according to the
author, in both proceedings against him, domestic remedies were exhausted with the
examination of his appeals by the Gomel Regional Court, after which the first -instance
courts’ decisions became enforceable.
5.2 As to the fact that he had appealed t o the Supreme Court under the supervisory
review proceedings in one of the cases, the author explains that submitting a supervisory
review request is a right, not an obligation.
5.3 On 14 November 2009, the author added that the freedoms protected under ar ticles
19 and 21 can be restricted, but only in line with the requirements of article 19, paragraph
3, and/or the second sentence of article 21, of the Covenant. On the other hand, article 2,
paragraph 1, of the Covenant requires that e ach State Party to t he Covenant undertakes to
respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the
rights recognized in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind. Article 2 ,
paragraph 2, of the Covenant provides that , where not already provided for by existing
legislative or other measures, each State Party to the Covenant undertakes to take the
necessary steps, in accordance with its constitutional processes and with the Covenant’s
provisions, to adopt such laws or othe r measures as may be necessary to give effect to the
rights recognized in the Covenant.
5.4 In this connection, the author claims that each time when applied in practice, the
requirement of article 8 of the Law on Mass Events not to disseminate information , leaflets,
posters, etc. , concerning a mass event for which no authori zation has yet been received,
violates articles 19 and 21, of the Covenant. In his case, the application of article 8 of the
above -mentioned law amounted to the limitation of his right to disseminate information and
right to peaceful assembly.
5.5 The author further notes that in his case, the courts failed to explain how the
limitations of his rights under articles 19 and 21 of the Covenant were justified. Similarly,

CCPR/C/106/D /1836/2008
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the State party in its replies has also failed to explain why the limitations o n the author
disseminating information on a future meeting with a known politician and citizens and
information concerning a peaceful assembly were necessary for the purposes of the
legitimate aim s listed in article 19, paragraph 3, and the second sentence of article 21 of the
Covenant.
Issues and proceedings before the Committee
Consideration of admissibility
6.1 Before considering any claim contained in a communication, the Human Rights
Commi ttee must, in accordance with rule 93 of its rules of procedure, decide whether or not
it is admissible under the Optional Protocol to the Covenant .
6.2 As required under article 5, paragraph 2 (a), of the Optional Protocol, the Committee
has ascertained t hat the same matter is not being examined under another procedure of
international investigation or settlement .
6.3 With regard to the requirement laid down in article 5, paragraph 2 (b), of the
Optional Protocol, the Committee takes note of the State part y’s argument that the author
failed to file an application for supervisory review to the Chairman of the Supreme Court of
Belarus and to the Prosecutor’s Office, with a supervisory review complaint and that,
therefore, he had failed to exhaust available do mestic remedies. The Committee further
notes the author’s explanation that he did not appeal with the Chairman of the Supreme
Court of Belarus or the Prosecutor’s Office, as supervisory review proceedings do not
constitute an effective domestic remedy , eve n if he had submitted one request which was
rejected by a Deputy -Chairman of the Supreme Court in May 2008 . The Committee also
notes that the State party has not shown whether and in how many cases supervisory review
procedures were applied successfully in cases concerning freedom of expression. The
Committee recalls its previous jurisprudence, according to which supervisory review
procedures against court decisions which have entered into force do not constitute a
remedy, which has to be exhausted for purp oses of article 5, paragraph 2 (b), of the
Optional Protocol .1 In the light of this, the Committee considers that it is not precluded by
the requirements of article 5, paragraph 2 (b), of the Optional Protocol, from examin ing the
present communication.
6.4 The Committee considers that the author has sufficiently substantiated h is claims
under article 19, paragraph 2 , and article 21 ; read together with article 2, paragraph 3, of the
Covenant, for purposes of admissibility. Accordingly, it declares the comm unication
admissible and proceeds to its examination on the merits.
Consideration of the merits
7.1 The Human Rights Committee has considered the present communication in the
light of all the information made available to it by the parties, as required u nder article 5,
paragraph 1, of the Optional Protocol.
7.2 The Committee has noted the author’s claim that the application of the Law on Mass
Events has breached his rights under articles 19, paragraph 2, and 21 of the Covenant. The
Committee must thus ver ify, first, whether the limitation of the author’s rights to freedom
of expression (right to disseminate information) and the imposition of his administrative
arrest for having distributed leaflets concerning two meetings in 2006 and 2008 for which

1 See, for example, Vladimir Schumilin v. Belarus , Communication No. 1784/2008, Views adopted on
23 July 2012, paragraph 8. 3.

CCPR/C/106/D/1836/2008
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authori zation had not yet been given, violated his rights under article 19 , paragraph 2, of the
Covenant.
7.3 The Committee recalls in this respect its general comment No. 34 (2011) on
freedoms of opinion and expression ,2 in which it stated inter alia that freedo m of opinion
and freedom of expression are indispensable conditions for the full development of the
person, that they are essential for any society and that they constitute the foundation stone
for every free and democratic society. 3 Any restrictions to fr eedom of expression must
conform to the strict tests of necessity and proportionality and “must be applied only for
those purposes for which they were prescribed and must be directly related to the specific
need on which they are predicated” .4
7.4 It furt her notes the State party’s explanation that the author was subjected to an
administrative sanction, under national law, for having breached the procedure for the
organization and holding of a meeting. The Committee observes that article 19, paragraph
3, o f the Covenant provides for certain restrictions only as provided by law and necessary:
(a) for respect of the rights and reputation of others; and (b) for the protection of national
security or public order ( ordre public ), or of public health or morals. T he Committee must
thus consider whether the restrictions imposed on the author’s right to freedom of
expression, even if provided by law, are justified under any of the criteria set out in article
19, paragraph 3.
7.5 The Committee has noted the State par ty’s explanation that the Law on Mass Events
is aimed at creating conditions for the realization of citizens’ constitutional rights and
freedoms and the protection of public safety and public order during the holding of public
events on the streets, in squ ares and at other public locations. It notes, however, that the
State party has not supplied any specific indication as to how the restrictions imposed on
the authors rights under article 19, paragraph 2, were necessary under article 19, paragraph
3, of th e Covenant to achieve any of these purposes. The Committee recalls that it is for the
State party to show that the restrictions on the author’s right under article 19 are necessary
and that , even if a State party introduce s a system aiming to strike a bala nce between an
individual’s freedom to impart information and the general interest in maintaining public
order in a certain area, such a system must not operate in a way that is incompatible with
article 19 of the Covenant .5 In the light of the information before it and in the absence of
any pertinent explanations from the State party in this connection, the Committee concludes
that the imposition of sanctions on the author for the distribution of leaflets by himself and
others informing the population abou t a planned, albeit not yet authorized , mass meeting
without indicating time and location and announcing a forth coming debate by a former
presidential candidate cannot be considered as restrictions of the exercise of the author’s
freedom to seek, receive a nd impart information and ideas that could be deemed necessary
for the protection of national security or of public order ( ordre public ) or for respect of the
rights or reputations of others. Accordingly, the Committee concludes that , in the
circumstances of the present c ase, the author’s rights under a rticle 19, paragraph 2, of the
Covenant have been violated ..
7.6 In the light of this conclusion, the Committee decides not to examine separately the
author’s claim under article 21 of the Covenant .

2 Official Records of the General Assembly, Sixty -sixth Session, Supplement No. 40, vol. I (A/66/40
(Vol. I)), annex V,
3 Ibid., para. 2.
4 Ibid., para. 23.
5 See, for example, Communication No. 1226/2003, Viktor Korneenko v. Belarus , Views adopted on 2 0
July 2012, paragraph 10.8.

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8. The Hu man Rights Committee, acting under article 5, paragraph 4, of the Optional
Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, is of the view that the
facts before it disclose a violation of the author ’s rights under article 19, paragraph 2, of the
Covenant.
9. In accordance with article 2, paragraph 3 (a), of the Covenant, the State party is
under an obligation to provide the author with an effective remedy, including the
reimbursement of the legal costs incurred by the author, as well as compensation. The State
party is also under an obligation to take steps to prevent similar violations in the future.
10. Bearing in mind that, by becoming a party to the Optional Protocol, the State party
has recognized the competence of the Committee to determine whether there has been a
violation of the Covenant or not and that, pursuant to article 2 of the Covenant, the State
party has undertaken to ensure to all individuals within its territory or subject to its
jurisdiction the rights recognized in th e Covenant and to provide an effective and
enforceable remedy in case a violation has been established, the Committee wishes to
receive from the State party, within 180 days, information about the measures taken to give
effect to the Committee’s Views. The State party is also requested to publish the present
Views, and to have them widely disseminated in Belarusian and Russian in the State party.
[Adopted in English, French and Spanish, the English text being the original version.
Subsequently to be issued also in Arabic, Chinese and Russian as part of the Committee’s
annual report to the General Assembly.]

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