DECISION OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OF THE REPUBLIC OF BELARUS
the 17 of April, 2015 No D-978/2015
On the conformity of the Law of the Republic of Belarus “On Making Alterations and Addenda to the Law of the Republic of Belarus “On Specially Protected Natural Areas” to the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus
The Constitutional Court of theRepublic o fBelarus comprising the Presiding OfficerChairman P.P. Miklashevich, Deputy Chairwoman O.GSergeeva, judges T.VVoronovich, S.YDanilyuk, V.PIsotko, N.A. Karpovich, L.GKozyreva, V.V. Podgrusha, A.GTikovenko, S.P. Chigrinov
 
on the basis of Article 116.1 of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, Article 22.3.2 of the Code of the Republic of Belarus on Judicial System and Status of Judges, Article 98 and Article 101.1 of the Law of the Republic of Belarus “On the Constitutional Proceedings”
 
in open court session in the exercise of obligatory preliminary review considered the constitutionality of the Law of the Republic of Belarus “On Making Alterations and Addenda to the Law of the Republic of Belarus “On Specially Protected Natural Areas”.
 
Having heard the reporting judge A.G. Tikovenko, having analysed the provisions of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus (hereinafter – the Constitution), the Law of the Republic of Belarus “On Making Alterations and Addenda to the Law of the Republic of Belarus “On Specially Protected Natural Areas” and other legislative acts of the Republic of Belarus, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Belarus found the following:
 
The Law of the Republic of Belarus “On Making Alterations and Addenda to the Law of the Republic of Belarus “On Specially Protected Natural Areas” (hereinafter – the Law) was adopted by the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus on 2 April 2015, approved by the Council of the Republic of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus on 14 April 2015 and submitted for signing to the President of the Republic of Belarus.
 
The adoption of the Law is grounded by the necessity to improve provisions of the Law of the Republic of Belarus “On Specially Protected Natural Areas” (hereinafter – the Law on Protected Areas) with regard to international treaties and practice of application thereof as well as to ensure the compliance of the rules in question with appropriate provisions of the laws of the Republic of Belarus “On Protection of the Environment”, “On State Ecological Expertise”, Code of the Republic of Belarus on Subsoil with the aim of preservation of natural ecological systems, biological and landscape diversity, forming an efficiently functioning system of specially protected natural areas.
 
When reviewing the constitutionality of the Law the Constitutional Court proceeds from the following.
 
1. According to the Constitution everyone shall be entitled to a conducive environment and to compensation for loss or damage caused by the violation of this right; the state shall supervise the rational utilization of natural resources to protect and improve living conditions, and to preserve and restore the environment (Article 46); it shall be the duty of everyone to protect the environment (Article 55).
 
The Law “On Protection of the Environment” defines a favourable environment as the environment whose quality ensures ecological safety, sustainable functioning of natural ecological systems, other natural and natural anthropogenic objects (Article 1.1.5). The principle of preservation of the biological diversity is one of basic principles of the protection of the environment that enshrined in the mentioned Law (Article 4.15).
 
As specially protected natural areas the Law on Protected Areas defines a part of the territory of the Republic of Belarus with unique, model and other valuable natural complexes and objects that have a particular ecological, scientific and (or) aesthetic significance and enjoy a specific mode of protection and use (Article 1).
 
 Provisions of the Law aim at further safeguarding of the constitutional right of everyone to a favourable environment, realisation by everyone of the constitutional duty to protect the nature, strengthening of the legal basis for the fulfillment by the state of the constitutional legal obligation to protect the environment, including to preserve the biological and landscape diversity. Thus, the Article 12 of the Law on Protected Areas is couched by the Law in a new version (Article 1.10). In particular, the Article 12.7 establishes that the exercise of an activity that impairs or may impair natural complexes and (or) objects of specially protected natural areas or contradicts objectives and goals set at the time of their declaration or transformation shall be prohibited.
 
In order to strengthen the mode of protection and use of specially protected natural areas, increase the efficiency of their management Articles 1.8.5 and 1.8.8 of the Law make addenda to the Article 11 of the Law on Protected Areas, setting forth the prohibition to transform and discontinue the functioning of the mentioned areas if the objectives, for the sake of which they have been declared, are not achieved. Additionally, it is established that a responsible public officer carrying out management of these areas shall be appointed in state bodies (other state organisations), which are entrusted to manage specially protected natural areas.
 
The constitutional requirement of exercising state control over the rational use of natural resources with the purpose of protection and restoration of the environment as well as the provision of realisation by everyone of the duty to protect it, which according to the Constitutional Court represents a legal ought and compulsory imperative (Decision of 21 April 2014 No D-920/2014), are developed in a number of articles of the Law. Thus, the legislator imposes on all individuals and legal entities an obligation to observe the established regime of protected zones of specially protected natural areas, modes of protection and use of nature preserves and natural monuments (Articles 1.13.8, 1.23 and 1.27.5 of the Law). According to the current wording of the Law on Protected Areas such an obligation is imposed only on land users, whose parcels of land are located within mentioned zones and boundaries.
 
Article 1.17.8 of the Law for purposes of creating conditions for instruction of individuals in the field of protection of the environment, forming their ecological culture supplements the Article 21 of the Law on Protected Areas with a provision setting the exercise of an activity aimed at the development of regulated ecological tourism (visits to nature trails, observation of animals, etc.) as one of basic tasks of nature reserves.
 
The Constitutional Court notes the lawfulness of the named approach of the legislator that complies with the Article 46 of the Constitution, aims to ensure the complete protection of specially protected natural areas, preserve natural ecological systems, biological and landscape diversity, intends to create conditions for recognition by everyone of the necessity to fulfill the constitutional duty to protect the natural environment.
 
2. The Constitution provides that the Republic of Belarus shall recognise the supremacy of the generally recognised principles of international law and shall ensure the compliance of laws therewith; conclusion of treaties that are contrary to the Constitution shall not be permitted (Article 8.1 and 8.3). Provisions of the Law on Protected Areas falling within the ambit of the operation of international treaties of the Republic of Belarus (Articles 101, 21, 33, etc.) correspond to the Constitution, meet the requirements of international legal obligations.
 
Thus, pursuant to the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters of 25 June 1998 (hereinafter – the Aarhus Convention) (entered into force for the Republic of Belarus on 30 October 2001) each Party shall ensure that environmental information progressively becomes available in electronic databases which are easily accessible to the public through public telecommunications networks (Article 5.3); may allow its public authorities to make a charge for supplying information, but such charge shall not exceed a reasonable amount (Article 4.8). The Law prescribes that the information on specially protected natural areas contained in the register of specially protected natural areas of the Republic of Belarus shall be made available to individuals and legal entities free of charge by means of its dissemination on the Internet (Article 1.7). Article 14.5 of the Law on Protected Areas couched by the Law in a new version (Article 1.13) provides that state bodies (other state organisations), which are entrusted to manage specially protected natural areas, shall bring to the public notice the information on boundaries, composition of lands and regime of protected zones of specially protected natural areas by means of its placement on their official websites on the Internet and (or) in the mass media, setting of information signs containing such an information or by other generally accessible means.
 
According to the opinion of the Constitutional Court the right to receive information on specially protected natural areas is a constituent part of the constitutional right of individuals to receive, store and disseminate complete, reliable and timely information on the state of the environment (Article 34.1 of the Constitution). These provisions serve as a safeguard for realisation of the mentioned constitutional right, meet the requirements of the Aarhus Convention.
 
At the same time the Law prescribes that services of supplying individuals and legal entities with the information on specially protected natural areas contained in the register of specially protected natural areas of the Republic of Belarus, whose supply requires the preliminary preparation (selection, generalisation, processing, analysis), shall be provided by a state organisation managing the register of specially protected natural areas of the Republic of Belarus for a charge (Article 1.7).
 
The Constitutional Court considers that the obligation of state bodies (state organisations) to render the respective services to citizens of the Republic of Belarus correlates with the right to receive information on specially protected natural areas. Furthermore, the supply of the requested information related to the realisation of this individual right may require appropriate expenses, what determines the lawfulness of the paid nature of the mentioned services. Accordingly, the Constitutional Court holds that this provision of the Law corresponds to the constitutional right of individuals to receive, store and disseminate complete, reliable and timely information on the state of the environment, meets the rules of the Aarhus Convention.
 
The Constitutional Court also considers that under conditions of globalisation and economic integration the preservation of natural ecological systems, biological and landscape diversity may be ensured by means of the subsequent harmonisation of rules of international and national ecological law, raising the ecological culture of individuals, forming the proper ecological legal space in view of the improvement of mechanisms for the performance of international ecological standards.
 
The Law is adopted by the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus within the competence under Article 97.1.2 of the Constitution, approved by the Council of the Republic of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus in accordance with Article 98.1.1 of the Constitution. 
 
In view of the foregoing the Constitutional Court concludes that the Law is in conformity with the Constitution as regards the content of rules, form of the act and procedure of adoption.
 
Guided by Article 116.1, Article 116.7 of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, Article 24.2 of the Code of the Republic of Belarus on Judicial System and Status of Judges, Articles 103–105 of the Law of the Republic of Belarus “On the Constitutional Proceedings”, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Belarus
 
RULED:
 
1. To recognise the Law of the Republic of Belarus “On Making Alterations and Addenda to the Law of the Republic of Belarus “On Specially Protected Natural Areas” to be conforming to the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus.
 
2. The present Decision shall come into force from the date of adoption.
 
3. To publish the present Decision in accordance with the legislation.
 
 
Presiding Officer – P.P. Miklashevich,
Chairman of the Constitutional Court

of the Republic of Belarus

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