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HFHR’s position on the sanctions against supporters of Jagiellonia Białystok football club

In May 2011, a group of Jagiellonia Białystok fans protested in front of the Podlaskie Province Governor’s Office against a decision to close parts of the stadium during two final matches of the season. In August 2012, the District Court in Białystok fined 35 protesters.

All of them were charged with, among other things, the petty offence under article 51(1) of the Petty Offences Code which reads: “whoever disturbs the peace, public order or night rest with shouts, noise or other extravagance or causes scandal in a public place, shall be subject to the penalty of a detention, restriction of liberty or a fine”.

In August 2012, the HFHR issued a statement regarding the described events and the ruling. The statement highlighted that the gathering of the protesting football fans might have been classified as a spontaneous assembly because of a specific nature of the event. A spontaneous assembly is an assembly which cannot be notified to the competent local government bodies because of its sudden nature, which in turn prevents the assembly’s organisers from obtaining any permits required under the Assemblies Act.

In the opinion of the HFHR, the conduct of the protesting supporters, who shouted slogans and displayed posters, remained within the boundaries of the public debate. The reaction of the assembled fans was a justified response to the situation and should be tolerated by the authorities. Therefore, the Foundation expressed doubts as to the qualification of the fans’ behaviour as a petty offence under article 51(1) of the Petty Offences Code.

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