Freedom of assembly in Russia

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Freedom of assembly in the Russian Federation is granted by Art. 31 of the Constitution adopted in 1993:

Citizens of the Russian Federation shall have the right to gather peacefully, without weapons, and to hold meetings, rallies, demonstrations, marches and pickets.[1]

Legislation[edit]

Between 1991 and 2004, demonstrations in the Russia were regulated by a decree first issued by the Supreme Soviet in 1988 and reaffirmed, with minor modifications, by presidential decrees in 1992 and 1993. In 2004 these were replaced by the Federal Law of the Russian Federation No.54-FZ "On Meetings, Rallies, Demonstrations, Marches and Pickets" (current version signed into law by the President of Russia on June 19, 2004, and came into force on July 4, 2004).[2] If the assembly in public is expected to involve more than one participant, its organisers are obliged to notify executive or local self-government authorities of the upcoming event few days in advance in writing. However, legislation does not foresee an authorisation procedure, hence the authorities have no right to prohibit an assembly or change its place unless it threatens the security of participants or is planned to take place near hazardous facilities, important railways, viaducts, pipelines, high voltage electric power lines, prisons, courts, presidential residences or in the border control zone. The right to gather can also be restricted in close proximity of cultural and historical monuments.

The regional and local authorities can issue secondary regulations, but limitations and prohibitions on public events can only be introduced by Federal Laws. Organisers will be subjected to administrative responsibility for violating a procedure according to Art. 20 of the Administrative Offences Code.[3]

On June 2012 the Russian parliament voted on a bill (proposed law) that raises fines for holding unsanctioned demonstration from the 5,000 rubles (around $150) to 300,000 rubles (around $10,000) for participants and up 600,000 rubles for rally organizers. Fines for the organizers of protests that fail to comply with federal regulations on demonstrations shoot up from 50,000 rubles ($1,160) to 1.5 million rubles ($48,000).[4][5][6] Also, protesters are prohibited to wear masks, weapons or objects, which may be used as weapons. Rallies cannot be organized by citizens, who have been convicted of a breach of public peace and security or have been subject to administrative penalties for rally violations twice or more times within a year.[7]

Statistics[edit]

According to the statistics released by the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs,[8]

30 thousands public actions took place in Russia in 2009; political claims were sounded on 2.5 thousands of them. 5.5 million people participated in those rallies. 440 actions were not negotiated on with the authorities, more than 20 thousands people took place in them. Road traffic was being blocked 56 times.

Controversies[edit]

The government generally respected this right in practice. However, the authorities at times limit freedom of assembly and ban, displace or disperse demonstrations.[9]

In May 2005 Moscow police, after breaking up a demonstration in front of city hall, detained 10 congregants and supporters of the Emmanuel Pentecostal Church. Members and supporters of the church continued to demonstrate, alleging discrimination by authorities who had refused the church permission to construct a church and renovate buildings in Moscow and another district. In June 2005 several of these demonstrators were arrested during a demonstration. City authorities contended that the demonstrations were illegal and that they had advised the demonstrators to hold their protests at an alternate site. Protestors said that the demonstration was legal and that they had never received such instructions from city authorities. Several protestors were charged with holding an illegal demonstration and sentenced to five‑day jail terms. A Moscow district court ruled in November 2005, that local authorities had violated the legal procedure for regulating public events in its handling of the Church's repeated demonstrations. The same court ruled in October 2005 that 13 police officers had wrongfully detained Emmanuel members following a demonstration a week earlier. The church pastor confirmed that police interference ended following these court decisions.

In May 2006 gay rights activists were denied their applications to hold a Gay pride in Moscow. See Moscow Pride

In the days before the Other Russia political opposition conference in Moscow in July 2006, according to Human Rights Watch, authorities tried to bar conference attendees from leaving their home cities violently.[10]

During the 32nd G8 summit in St. Petersburg in July 2006, human rights activists claimed 577 alleged incidents of illegal action by law enforcement officials against protestors, including 94 cases of police taking person to police stations without explanation; 267 cases (three involving children) of temporary detention on trumped‑up charges such as "minor hooliganism," "verbal abuse," and "resistance to law enforcement officials"; and 216 cases of persons prevented from traveling by bus or train to St. Petersburg for a "counter summit" organized by Russian NGOs.

After organizing a picket in Moscow on September 3, 2006, in commemoration of the victims of Beslan school hostage crisis, human rights activist Lev Ponomaryov was arrested and detained for three days, arbitrary and illegally, according to human rights organizations, as he had submitted the required notification prior to the event, but chosen not to observe the subsequent recommendation that it take place elsewhere or on a different date.

On October 16, 2006, police in Nazran violently broke up a rally in memory of Anna Politkovskaya, killed on October 7, and detained activists.

Dissenters' March[edit]

Authorities banned most of the Marches of the Discontented, which took place on December 16, 2006, in Moscow, on March 3, 2007, in Saint Petersburg, on March 24, 2007, in Nizhny Novgorod, on April 14, 2007, for the second time in Moscow, on April 15, 2007, again in Saint Petersburg, on May 18 in Samara and on May 19 in Chelyabinsk, or proposed to change their place. As protesters defied the bans, riot police (OMON) beaten or detained scores of opposition activists during the demonstrations, detaining or taking off trains and buses some expected participants in advance (see Dissenters March).

On December 17, 2006, Moscow city authorities prohibited approximately 300 members of the political party Yabloko and their supporters from marching in memory of killed journalists. Yabloko was allowed to meet, however, but was refused a permit to march.

Moscow Pride[edit]

On May 27, 2007, a gay rights demonstration banned by Yury Luzhkov as "satanic" was held in Moscow again and for the second year running. See Moscow Pride.

On June 1, 2008, another Gay pride took place in Moscow, again banned by the City Mayor. Also see Moscow Pride.

The 2009 edition of Moscow Pride took place on May 16, 2009, the same day as the finals of the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest being hosted by Moscow, and the eve of the International Day Against Homophobia. The parade was called "Slavic Pride", as it will promote gay rights and culture from across the entire Slavic regions of Europe. Again, authorization was refused. See Moscow Pride.

Prisoners of Bolotnaya[edit]

The day before the inauguration of President Putin, peaceful protesters against elections to Bolotnaya Square in Moscow were halted by police. 19 protesters faced criminal charges in connection with events characterized by authorities as “mass riots”. Several leading political activists were named as witnesses in the case and had their homes searched in operations that were widely broadcast by state-controlled television channels. Over 6 and 7 May, hundreds of peaceful individuals were arrested across Moscow.[11]

Amnesty demanded that all 10 prisoners of conscience (POCs) in this case must be immediately and unconditionally released, and any charges relating to the purported “mass riots” must be dropped in relation to all defendants andpersons under investigation in this case.[12]

“The release of businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the Pussy riot singers Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and a handful of Bolotnaya case detainees (three) should not been seen as a benign act of clemency, but a politically expedient move in the run up to the Sochi Olympics,” said John Dalhuisen, Director at Amnesty International. “Those that have been released were imprisoned solely for expressing their views. While they are now free, the charges against them remain. The amnesty is no substitute for an effective justice system.”[13]

Strategy-31[edit]

Since 31 July 2009 rallies for the freedom of assembly have been taking place on Triumfalnaya Square in Moscow. They are held every 31 day of the month, in which such day exists. This concept, called Strategy-31, has been proposed by Eduard Limonov and supported by various opposition movements and human-rights organisations, including the Moscow Helsinki Group headed by Lyudmila Alexeyeva. Since 2010 rallies and pickets for the freedom of assembly have been held also in other Russian cities. As of 31 March, no rally in Moscow or St.Petersburg has been allowed by the authorities. The police have dispersed and detained participants.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Chapter 2 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation
  2. ^ Федеральный закон Российской Федерации от 19 июня 2004 г. N 54-ФЗ О собраниях, митингах, демонстрациях, шествиях и пикетированиях (English translation)
  3. ^ Art. 20 of the Code of Administrative Offences of the Russian Federation, Federal Law No. 195-FZ of December 30, 2001.
  4. ^ "Russian Parliament Approves Massive Increase in Protest Fines". RIA Novosti. 5 June 2012. Retrieved 7 June 2012. 
  5. ^ "Russia’s Duma Passes Bill on Unsanctioned Rallies". RIA Novosti. 6 June 2012. Retrieved 7 June 2012. 
  6. ^ "Putin signs law tightening punishment for rally violations". Itar Tass. 8 June 2012. Retrieved 8 June 2012. 
  7. ^ "Rossiyakaya Gazeta publishes new rally law on website, in June 9 issue". Itar Tass. 8 June 2012. Retrieved 9 June 2012. 
  8. ^ The MVD was ordered to prepare for people's uprisings, by Lenta.Ru, February 2010 (in Russian)
  9. ^ Human rights in Russia, 2006 Report by US Department of State
  10. ^ Russia: Attempts to Stifle Dissent Before Summit, Human Rights News, 13 July 2006.
  11. ^ Russian Federation Freedom of assembly Annual Report 2013 The state of the world's human rights Amnesty International
  12. ^ Russian Federation: Behind the smokescreen of Olympic celebrations: Key human rights concerns in the Russian Federation Update : Media briefing 2014 Amnesty International 9 January 2014
  13. ^ Russia: Harassment will continue despite Putin’s amnesty 2014 Amnesty International 3 December 2013