Monday, 10 June 2013

Alekseyev v Russia - update on Committee of Ministers consideration

At its second quarterly meeting held on 4-6 June (1172DH meeting) to supervise the execution of judgments by the European Court of Human Rights, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe have again considered the compliance of the Russian Federation with the Court's judgment in Alekseyev v Russia. This follows up on previous considerations by the CoM which I summarised in March.

The CoM are continuing to focus on two distinct sets of issues arising from the Court's judgment. First, the continuing refusal to allow the applicant permission to hold a gay rights parade in Moscow (individual measures). Second, the enactment and impact of 'homosexual propaganda' laws in several regions of Russia and the likely enactment of similar federal legislation (general measures). 

Individual measures 

In terms of the individual measures, the CoM note that the 'situation in Moscow does not seem to have changed considerably since the delivery of the Court’s judgment'. Therefore, the CoM acknowledge that three years after the Court's judgment and nine years after the applicant was first refused permission to hold a gay rights demonstration, that the Russian authorities have not implemented measures to redress the situation. 

The CoM note that while the Moscow authorities continue to rely, as they often have, on claims that gay rights demonstrations raise security issues, that their 'examination of the relevant decisions and judgments disclose nothing in their reasoning which would allow concluding that they were based on a thorough and objective assessment of the situation, as required by the Court’s judgment'.

The CoM, recognising that the continued refusal of the applicant's request to hold a public assembly, and noting the widespread refusal for similar events across Russia, concluded that this constitutes a complex set of problems that should be considered under general measures. 

General measures

The CoM paid particular attention to the enforcement of provisions in the Assemblies Act. According to the Assemblies Act no public event can be prohibited and if the authorities do not deem a proposed time and place for an event to be suitable then they must offer an organiser an alternative corresponding to the social and political objectives of the event. The organiser should then reach an agreement with the authorities and, if no agreement is reached, the organiser can appeal to courts which should issue a judgment as soon as possible and in any event before the planned date of the event. A problem has been that, even where domestic courts have overturned refusals, these have been issued long after the planned date of an event. These are issues which the CoM go on to consider in light of an opinion by the Venice Commission on the Assemblies Act. 

In light of the continuing problems with the lack of enforcement of the provisions in the Assemblies Act the CoM concluded that this element should be included in the action plan that it has previously requested the Russian government to issue. It stated that the ongoing problems raise issues about the 'quality of the legal and regulatory framework governing the procedure for the organisation of the public events'.

Specifically, on the issue of the 'security risk' of gay rights marches the CoM concluded: 'additional training and awareness raising measures are necessary, in particular for the authorities responsible for the assessment of such a risk'.

Decisions

The formal decisions adopted at this meeting were:

The Deputies
  1. noted with concern the persistent refusals by the competent authorities of Moscow to grant authorisation for the public events planned by the applicant, thus allowing the situation criticised by the Court in its judgment to persist;
  2. noted with regard to the general measures that a number of training and awareness-raising activities were organised for the local authorities and that in some regions public events similar to those described in the judgment have taken place;
  3. regretted however that despite the training and awareness-raising activities, the number of the refusals to grant authorisation for the similar events remains high, and noted in this respect the significant divergences in the implementation of the Assemblies Act by the competent authorities and the courts, notwithstanding the clarifications given by the Constitutional Court;
  4. therefore strongly reiterated their invitation to the Russian authorities to present a comprehensive action plan for the execution of the present judgment, which should, in particular, describe the measures aiming at [1] ensuring proper assessment of the security risk by the competent authorities, notably through training and awareness raising activities of the competent administrative and judicial authorities; [2] clarifying and harmonising the implementation of the Assemblies Act, notably through legislative action; [3] ensuring coherence of the domestic judicial practice regarding disputes concerning the organisation of public events;
  5. strongly encouraged the Russian authorities, in the framework of the adoption of such measures, to take into account the Opinions of the Venice Commission on the Russian Assemblies Act;
  6. noted moreover with interest that the draft Code on Administrative Justice pending before the Parliament contains special provisions to ensure that disputes relating to the organisation of public events are resolved by the domestic courts before the date of the planned events and invited the Russian authorities to provide further information in this respect.


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My analysis of Alekseyev v Russia can be found in Human Rights Law Review or on the website of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights:
http://www.corteidh.or.cr/tablas/r27001.pdf 

My working paper on the 'homosexual propaganda' laws can be found here:

And my comment on Russia's 'homosexual propaganda' laws can be found in Jurist:
http://jurist.org/hotline/2011/12/paul-johnson-russia-lgbt.php



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