Friday, 15 February 2013

Recently Communicated Case about Freedom of Assembly in the Russian Federation

On the 22nd January 2013 the European Court of Human Rights communicated a new complaint about prohibitions on 'gay rights' marches in the Russian Federation during 2010 and 2011.

In 'Application 19700/11' the four applicants are Ms Yefremenkova, Mr Milkov, Mr Gavrikov and Mr Sheremetyev. 

Here is a summary of the complaint:
  1. The applicants complain of a violation of their rights guaranteed by Article 11 of the Convention. They submit, in particular, that in 2010 the refusals to agree to their marches, meetings and pickets were unlawful because the authorities did not propose alternative venues as they were required to do by domestic law. They argue that the judicial decisions on that issue were contradictory: some of them held that the authorities were not obliged to propose an alternative venue, while others found that they were required to do so by the Public Assemblies Act, as interpreted by the Constitutional Court. The applicants further argue that the restrictions imposed on their right to freedom of assembly were not “necessary in a democratic society”. The legitimate aim of ensuring road safety could have been achieved through means other than refusing to approve the assemblies, such as the deployment of police to control traffic. Nor could the authorities’ reference to various temporary inconveniences that the assemblies might cause to the residents of St Petersburg justify the refusal to allow the assemblies. Any public assembly is bound to cause certain minor disruptions to the ordinary life of the city and it is routine practice for the city authorities to take measures, such as blocking traffic in several streets, to allow a festive event to take place. However the authorities did not consider taking any such measures in the applicants’ case. The alternative venues proposed by the authorities in 2011 were entirely unsuitable for the public assemblies concerned because they were located in sparsely populated districts on the outskirts of the city. The applicants argue that those locations were proposed deliberately to banish gay activists from the public eye. Lastly, the fact that some of the refusals were later declared unlawful by the courts did not deprive them of their victim status because the judicial decisions were taken long after the scheduled dates of the events, making it impossible for them to organise a lawful assembly on the date that had a symbolic importance for them.
  2. The applicants complain under Article 13 of the Convention, taken in conjunction with Article 11, that they did not have at their disposal any procedure which would have allowed them to obtain a final decision prior to the date of the planned public assemblies.
  3. The applicants complain under Article 14 of the Convention, taken in conjunction with Article 11, that they were subjected to discrimination on account of sexual orientation. They argue that the refusals to approve their assemblies were motivated by the authorities’ discriminatory attitude towards homosexuals. The same authorities allowed a meeting in support of “traditional family values” organised by the Young Guard pro-government youth movement in protest against the Gay Pride march. That counter meeting took place on the same day and at the location which, when proposed by the applicants for the Gay Pride march, had been rejected by the authorities as unsuitable.

And the Court's previous decision in the similar facts case Alekseyev v Russia can be found here: http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/sites/eng/pages/search.aspx?i=001-101257



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