CASE OF NAVALNYY v. RUSSIA (Applications Nos. 29580/12 and 4 others)

A selection of key paragraph(s) can be found below the document.

98. The Court reiterates that the right to freedom of assembly is fundamental right in a democratic society and, like the right to freedom of expression, is one of the foundations of such a society. Thus, it should not be interpreted restrictively (see Kudrevičius and Others v. Lithuania [GC], no. 37553/05, § 91, ECHR 2015, and Taranenko v. Russia, no. 19554/05, § 65, 15 May 2014). To avert the risk of a restrictive interpretation, the Court has refrained from formulating the notion of an assembly, which it regards as an autonomous concept, or exhaustively listing the criteria which would define it. It has specified in relevant cases that the right to freedom of assembly covered both private meetings and meetings in public places, whether static or in the form of a procession; in addition, it can be exercised by individual participants and by the persons organising the gathering (see Kudrevičius and Others, cited above, § 91, with further references, and Lashmankin and Others, cited above, § 402). It has also emphasised that Article 11 of the Convention only protects the right to “peaceful assembly”, a notion which does not cover gatherings where the organisers and participants have violent intentions. The guarantees of Article 11 therefore
apply to all gatherings except those where the organisers and participants have such intentions, incite violence or otherwise reject the foundations of a democratic society (see Kudrevičius and Others, cited above, § 92, with further references).

140. The Court has previously found that the Russian notification system involved an unusually long, as compared to other States, ten-day period between the end of the notification time-limit and the planned date of the assembly; the only exception for this rule being a stationary demonstration (“picket”), which could be notified three days before the
planned date. The Court has noted that the Public Events Act made no allowance for special circumstances, where an immediate response to a current event is warranted in the form of a spontaneous assembly. It also noted that when convicting the participants in a public event held without prior notification, the domestic courts had limited their assessment to
establishing that they had taken part in a gathering which had not been notified within the statutory time-limit. They had not examined whether there were special circumstances calling for an immediate response to a current event in the form of a spontaneous assembly and justifying a derogation from the strict application of the notification time-limits. Indeed, the domestic legal provisions governing notification time-limits are formulated in rigid terms, admitting of no exceptions and leaving no room for a balancing exercise conforming with the criteria laid down in the Court’s case-law under Article 11 of the Convention (see Lashmankin and Others, cited above, §§ 451-54).

141. In the above-mentioned case of Lashmankin and Others, the Court found no reasons why it should have been “necessary in a democratic society” to establish inflexible time-limits for notification of public events and to make no exceptions to their application in order to take account of situations where it is impossible to comply with the time-limit, for example in cases of justified spontaneous assemblies or in other circumstances. It considered that the automatic and inflexible application of the notification time-limits without any regard to the specific circumstances of each case could by itself amount to an interference without justification under Article 11 § 2 of the Convention (ibid., §§ 456 and 473).