Publication

ECHR urges Ukraine to eliminate legislative lacuna concerning freedom of peaceful assembly

 

On Thursday 11 April the European Court of Human Rights published its Chamber Judgement in the case of Vyerentsov v. Ukraine

As reported, Oleksiy Vyerentsov received a three day term of administrative imprisonment for holding a peaceful protest outside the Prosecutor’s Office in Lviv and his refusal to obey the police when they told him to stop the protest. The ruling was taken by the Halytsky District Court in Lviv which did not allow Vyerentsov’s lawyer to attend the court hearing.  It later transpired that the Lviv Court of Appeal also considered that you need a permit from the authorities to hold a peaceful gathering.

It is interesting that the reference made by the UHHRU lawyer to the European Convention on Human Rights was called trumped up and unwarranted by the Court of Appeal.

The European Court of Human Rights noted that the Vyerentsov case “disclosed a structural problem, namely a legislative lacuna concerning freedom of assembly which has remained in Ukraine since the end of the Soviet Union. Indeed, the only existing document currently establishing a procedure for holding demonstrations is a Decree adopted in 1988 by the USSR (the 1988 Decree), which is not generally accepted by the Ukrainian courts as still applicable. Therefore, under Article 46 (binding force and implementation), the Court invited Ukraine to urgently reform its legislation and administrative practice to establish the requirements for the organisation and holding of peaceful demonstrations, as well as the grounds for their restriction”.

“Even though the Court acknowledged that it could take some time for a country to

establish its legislative framework during a transitional period like the one Ukraine was currently going through, it could not agree that a delay of more than 20 years was justifiable – especially when such a fundamental right as freedom of peaceful demonstration was at stake”

In its judgement the Court also referred to UHHRU data regarding bans of peaceful gatherings in Ukraine. It noted, for example, that according to UHHRU information, in 2012 the Ukrainian authorities tried to restrict peaceful gatherings in 359 cases and succeeded in 90% of the cases.

Mr Vyerentsov will receive 6 thousand EUR in compensation.

The case was represented at the European Court of Human Rights by Volodymyr Yavorskyy, member of the UHHRU Board.  Mr Yavorskyy points out that to implement this judgement Ukraine must adopt a law which clearly regulars the procedure for peaceful assembly and must also change the article in the Code of Administrative Offences regarding violation of the procedure for organizing peaceful gatherings. This judgement also once again raises the issue of violations of the right to a fair trial through administrative detention.

The case was supported in the European Court of Human Rights by the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union Strategic Litigations Fund.

The full judgement can be found here.

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