Ibragimova v. Russia (Application no. 68537/13)

A selection of key paragraphs can be found below the judgement.


31.  In respect of the applicant’s conviction, the Court notes the indisputably peaceful nature of the solo demonstration staged by the applicant and the absence of any real risks of disorder in the circumstances. It further notes that neither the aim of “prevention of disorder” nor the protection of the rights and freedoms of others rationale was ever referred to, either explicitly or in substance, in the domestic proceedings or in any domestic documents. While it is doubtful that either of the two legitimate aims relied on by the Government were pursued by the applicant’s conviction (see Navalnyy v. Russia [GC], nos. 29580/12 and 4 others, §§ 121-22 and 127, 15 November 2018), the interference was in any event not “necessary” for the reasons set out below. 

33.  Firstly, having examined the domestic decisions, the Court is not satisfied that the applicant’s right to exercise her freedom of expression was adequately taken into consideration during the examination of the administrative-offence charges against her. Indeed, her arguments, concerning, in particular, the symbolic meaning of her use of the colourful balaclava did not receive any assessment by the courts (see, in so far as relevant, Novikova and Others, cited above, § 188). The courts did not assess the nature of her expression, or the level of protection her expression should have received. 

34.  Secondly, as noted in paragraph 31 above, the applicant’s solo demonstration was entirely peaceful, and was apparently perceived by the authorities as such. There is nothing to indicate in the present case that the applicant disobeyed the orders of the authorities during the demonstration. Contrary to the Government’s submissions, there are no indications in the case material – particularly in the domestic courts’ decisions or police reports used as key evidence by the courts – to suggest that the police attempted to warn the applicant of the unlawfulness of her conduct or even approach her during her solo demonstration. Indeed, the police officers, according to their own reports, did not see any need to intervene (see paragraph 11 above) for any reason. 

35.  Moreover, the Court notes that there is no general prohibition in Russian law on face covering in public and that the applicant was sanctioned for breaching national regulations on the conduct of public events (see and contrast, in the context of Articles 8 and 9, S.A.S. v. France [GC], no. 43835/11, §§ 141 and 153, ECHR 2014 (extracts); Dakir v. Belgium 

no. 4619/12, §§ 52-62, 11 July 2017; and Belcacemi and Oussar v. Belgium, no. 37798/13, §§ 50-63, 11 July 2017) 

36.  Finally, the Court notes that the domestic courts did not explore in a meaningful manner whether there had been any intent or conduct preventing the applicant’s identification during her demonstration – or, in terms of domestic law, whether her balaclava was “specifically designed” to hinder identification (see the Public Events Act, paragraph 15 above; and the Ruling of the Constitutional Court, paragraph 18 above). Indeed, there is nothing to suggest that she had sought to avoid identification. […] 

40.  The Court considers that the applicant’s conviction for an administrative offence consisting merely in wearing a balaclava during her solo demonstration, in the absence of any balancing exercise by the domestic courts, constituted a disproportionate interference with her freedom of expression. 

41.  There has therefore been a violation of Article 10 of the Convention interpreted in the light of Article 11 of the Convention. 


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