Face and scarves at mass events
Remember, that hiding your face during mass events is prohibited in Belarus. Technically, even covering your face with a fashionable scarf is a violation of law. A surgical mask (yes, you have a cold)? Nice try, but the answer is still no.
Means of self-defense
The law prohibits bringing any weapon to a mass event, including gas cartridges, clubs, bats etc.
It is up to you to decide to what extent you are involved. But we strongly recommend you to avoid shouting slogans aimed at incitement to racial, national, religious or other social hatred because such actions are criminally punishable.
Emergency situations during mass events
If someone starts damaging property, breaking windows, committing arson or making provocations in your presence, you need to leave the area immediately. Try to draw the attention of journalists or militia officers to it, but in no case should you take part in it – there would be a risk of being found guilty of taking part in a riot.
By law, you have every right to get an explanation of the reason you are in custody. In fact, you should be aware that you may be detained without any explanation.
If you are apprehended by force, grabbed by hands, even if the person wears civilian clothes, don’t react with force or name-calling. That's not fair, but people in civilian clothes very often turn to be undercover security officials, and by using force вы рискуете схватить you're liable to get a whole bunch of articles of the Code (there you have insolence, defiance, and the deliberate infliction of bodily injury). Scream out loud, call for help, try to draw the attention of journalists and other participants to what is happening.
If you have witnessed people in civilian clothes detaining someone, please, try to view the reality coldly. Understand that if you to intervene in the process using force, it is possible that physical force is applied to you and you are detained as well. You can ask these people to introduce themselves and shows their IDs. You can call for help and try to draw the attention of others and the press to what is happening. Try and note the description of “people in civilian clothes”, take a photo, or, better still, capture it on video (again, put your own safety first). Try and find out the name of the person attacked by those “in civilian clothes”. After the incident, submit the data to the media or human rights defenders.
Calls from the militia department
Militia officers are required to inform your relatives or an employer of your detention within three hours. A “one call” rule doesn’t apply to Belarus, so you can't demand a phone call. But if a militiaman allows you to do this, that won't break any rules.
If for some reason your cell phone wasn’t taken from you, you are free to use it. The law does not prescribe penalties for this.
Questioning/interrogation/any conversation at the militia department
Don’t try to distinguish between the varieties of these conversations. Just remember, you have a right not to incriminate yourself and\or your relatives.
Golden rule: If there is something you don’t know or not sure about, it’s better to say “I don’t know”, “I don’t remember”, or, better still, keep silence.
Are they going to search you or inspect your belongings?
Militia officers are entitled to carry out personal searches only in the presence of two witnesses. Only in exceptional cases can they search you without witnesses – when there are substantial grounds for believing that you carry weapons or other items that could be used for causing harm to human life or health. Militia officers can’t be witnesses. They can start a personal search only when you and the witnesses are present.
A search of personal belongings is carried out in your presence. Militia officers are not required by law to inspect the belongings in presence of witnesses. Nevertheless, suggest that they search your personal items in presence of witnesses in order to avoid questionable matters. If someone tries to attribute to you something that couldn’t be found among your belongings, note it in the search record.
In your case, it’s most likely that a record of administrative offence will be drawn up. The most important thing to remember is that you should use a record to reflect your own position.
A record has to be signed. Before you sign it, use the record to put his version of events in writing and note the violations committed by the militia officers while detaining you, bringing you to the militia department etc. (the officers did not identify themselves, didn’t clarify your rights, didn’t inform you about the basis for the detention). If you are not given a copy of the report, you should also note it in the record.
What if you were beaten by militia officers?
As you get to the militia station, report it to the duty officer to question you. Ask to be sent for forensic medical examination. Also ask for a piece of paper and a pen to make the complaint to the procuracy. Give the complaint to the duty officer so that he could register it and transmit it to the public prosecutor.
If you are held in the Detention Center for Violators or the temporary detention isolator until trial, inform a member of the institution that you have marks of beatings, and ask to have it verified.
If you’ve got severe pains, urge to call an ambulance.
What are you prosecuted for after participating in mass events?
If you're out of luck, and a record is drawn up on you, it is most likely to be on:
Insubordination against a lawful instruction or request by an official in the course of carrying out his duties (article 23.4 of the Code of Administrative Offences) – the article implies that you resisted arrest and ignored the demands of militia officers. It can cost you a fine of 2 to 30 basic units or administrative detention for up to 15 days.
Disorderly conduct (article 17.1 of the Code of Administrative Offences) - the article implies that you swore, disturbed public order and other citizens or urinated in a public place etc. It can cost you a fine of 20 to 50 basic units or administrative detention for up to 15 days.
Civil unrest (article 293 of the Criminal Code) - be careful: you may face deprivation of liberty for a period ranging from 3 to 8 years under that article. The article includes organizing a riot, as well as involvement in it (arson, mayhem, personal violence, destruction of property).
Remember that you don’t get free legal counsel in administrative proceedings. There is no fixed price list for a layer’s actions to protect your interests, but according to our information, one court appearance costs around 100$. We find it necessary to correlate this sum with your income and the positive effect of the layer’s participation in proceedings related to mass events.
But if you are accused of a criminal offence (such as, involvement in a riot), our advice is to demand a counsel right away and avoid giving any explanation in the absence of counsel.
If you decide that you need a council anyway, ask a militia officer to call a layer. If he ignores it, note it as a comment to the record. If the record is not drawn up, send a complaint of obstruction of the right to defense to the prosecutor's office as soon as possible. This militia officer will possibly avoid obstructing the lawyer's work.
The action plan for defense before the court
During the court trial, maintain the position reflected by you in the record of the administrative offence. If you have not noted anything there, inform the court that you have taken part in an authorized mass event and you did not commit acts you are accused of. You are entitled to ask questions to the militia officers who testify as witnesses during the trial. Ask them about how you looked and what exactly you have been doing. Evidence shows that militia officers repeatedly use the same phrases in court, such as “shouting anti-State slogans”, “disturbing the citizens” etc. Ask them what exactly the slogans were, why the citizens you disturbed are not called as witnesses. If you ask specific questions, a militia officer may get puzzled, so the judge may conclude that a wrongful accusation is being made.
How to use streams and other videos to your advantage?
If you kept a record of your detention which reflects the violations committed by militia officers, and administrative proceedings are instituted against you, you can ask the court to inspect the record. If the judge refuses, this fact can be pointed out in a complaint filed with a higher court. The record can also be attached to a complaint against law enforcement officers.
Problems at the place of study
Deanery has no right to make you refuse participation in an event that takes place beyond the educational process. Even if you were subsequently charged with administrative offence, that is not technically a reason for exclusion or reprimand. If you are pressured, try to make a record (audio- or video-recording), and file it to the Ministry of Education and the Public Prosecutor’s Office together with the complaint.
Find more information here:
Your rights in interactions with the militia (how to sign a record correctly, how to act during detention) >> https://goo.gl/jw6IAD
Searching: how to act right >> https://goo.gl/OVFj24
For students: what if college administration or someone else is starting to take an interest in you >> https://goo.gl/fdkxPa
*** This material is a brief summary of the leaflet prepared with the support of European Commission in Belarus for the project «Support to civil society in the initiatives aimed at more open and transparent work of law enforcement officials in the Republic of Belarus»