Barseghyan v. Armenia (Application no. 17804/09)
A selection of key paragraphs can be found below the judgement.CASE-OF-BARSEGHYAN-v.-ARMENIA
53. Having regard to the Armenian system of prior notification as in force at the material time, the Court notes that such notification was required only when a public assembly involved 100 or more participants (see paragraphs 20 and 21 above). Furthermore, if an event involving fewer than a 100 participants spontaneously grew into a bigger event exceeding that number, similarly no notification was required. The Government alleged that there had been more than a 100 persons gathered in that area and that the assembly had not been spontaneous (see paragraphs 40 and 41 above), but failed to support this allegation with any objective evidence. Moreover, the Government’s allegation has no basis in the findings of the domestic court which, in fact, failed to carry out any examination of that question. The relevant domestic decision (see paragraph 15 above) is entirely silent on that matter and the domestic court appears to have simply proceeded on the assumption that the protest, which the applicant had wanted to hold and incited others to join, required a prior notification, without clarifying the number of persons present or the circumstances which gave rise to the gathering in the first place, including the question of whether it could fall into the category of “spontaneous” gatherings.
54. As regards the second ground relied on by the Administrative Court, the Court notes that, while finding that the assembly would have posed a risk to public order and safety, the domestic court based this conclusion exclusively on the fact that a state of emergency had been declared in Yerevan as a result of “the events which had taken place in the capital of the country on 1 March 2008”. While not specifying those events, it can nevertheless be understood from the context that this was an implied reference to the tense situation in the capital of Armenia on the previous day, which had involved clashes between protesters and the law enforcement authorities and resulted in physical damage, loss of life and destruction of property (see paragraph 7 above). The Court notes, however, that the domestic court relied on that fact to justify a blanket ban on holding any assembly at Theatre Square in Gyumri without any examination of the particular situation in that city or the applicant’s specific behaviour. Similarly, it appears that the presence of the police at Theatre Square and their apparent cordoning off of that area pursued the aim of ensuring that no assembly, whatever its intended purpose or size, took place in that location, thereby cutting any such attempts at the roots. The Court notes that, while the events which took place in Yerevan were undoubtedly tragic and a cause for grave concern, there is no evidence to suggest that anything similar had happened or was about to happen in Gyumri. Nor is there any evidence to suggest that the applicant had violent intentions or incited others to commit acts of violence or any similarly reprehensible acts. The Court therefore considers that the authorities, including the domestic courts, failed to provide “relevant and sufficient” reasons to justify the interference with the applicant’s right to freedom of assembly which, in such circumstances, cannot be said to have been necessary in a democratic society.
55. There has accordingly been a violation of Article 11 of the Convention.