Lashmankin and Others v. Russia (Application Nos. 57818/09 and 14 others)

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

404. The Court reiterates that interference with the right to freedom of assembly does not need to amount to an outright ban, legal or de facto, but can consist in various other measures taken by the authorities. The term “restrictions” in Article 11 § 2 must be interpreted as including both measures taken before or during a gathering and those, such as punitive measures, taken afterwards (see Ezelin, cited above, § 39; Kasparov and Others v. Russia, no. 21613/07, § 84, 3 October 2013; Primov and Others, cited above, § 93; and Nemtsov v. Russia, no. 1774/11, § 73, 31 July 2014). For instance, a prior ban can have a chilling effect on those who may intend to participate in a rally and thus amount to an interference, even if the rally subsequently proceeds without hindrance on the part of the authorities. A refusal to allow an individual to travel for the purpose of attending a meeting amounts to an interference as well. So too do measures taken by the authorities during a rally, such as dispersal of the rally or the arrest of participants, and penalties imposed for having taken part in a rally (see Kasparov and Others, cited above, § 84, with further references).

405. The right to freedom of assembly includes the right to choose the time, place and manner of conduct of the assembly, within the limits established in paragraph 2 of Article 11 (see Sáska v. Hungary, no. 58050/08, § 21, 27 November 2012). The Court stresses in this connection that the organisers’ autonomy in determining the assembly’s location, time and manner of conduct, such as, for example, whether it is static or moving or whether its message is expressed by way of speeches, slogans, banners or by other ways, are important aspects of freedom of assembly. Thus, the purpose of an assembly is often linked to a certain location and/or time, to allow it to take place within sight and sound of its target object and at a time when the message may have the strongest impact (see Süleyman Çelebi and Others v. Turkey, nos. 37273/10 and 17 others, § 109, 24 May 2016; see also, for the same approach, § 40 of the Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association of 21 May 2012, cited in paragraph 313 above; point 4.2 of the Compilation of Venice Commission Opinions Concerning Freedom of Assembly of 1 July 2014, cited in paragraph 315 above; and point 3.5 and § 101 of the 2010 Guidelines on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly by the ODIHR in consultation with the Venice Commission, cited in paragraph 317 above). Accordingly, in cases where the time and place of the assembly are crucial to the participants, an order to change the time or the place may constitute an interference with their freedom of assembly, as does a prohibition on speeches, slogans or banners (see Stankov and the United Macedonian Organisation Ilinden, cited above, §§ 79-80 and 108‑09; The United Macedonian Organisation Ilinden and Ivanov v. Bulgaria, no. 44079/98, § 103, 20 October 2005; and Disk and Kesk v. Turkey, no. 38676/08, § 31, 27 November 2012).

406. The Court has already found in a case against Russia that the refusal to approve the location or time of an assembly amounted to an interference with the right to freedom of assembly. It has noted that although Russian law did not require an authorisation for public gatherings, a public event could not occur lawfully if the event organiser had not accepted a public authority’s proposal for another venue and/or timing for the event. If the organiser still proceeded with the event as initially planned, it could be dispersed and its participants arrested and convicted of administrative offences (see Berladir and Others, cited above, §§ 47-51).

407. In the present case the competent authorities refused to approve the location, time or manner of conduct of public events planned by the applicants, and proposed alternative locations, times or manner of conduct. The applicants, considering that the authorities’ proposals did not answer the purpose of their assembly, either cancelled the event altogether or decided to hold it as initially planned despite the risk of dispersal, arrest and prosecution. Some of them were indeed arrested and convicted of administrative offences, following the dispersal of their assembly. In one case the applicant was arrested and fined for participating in a public event which had not been notified to the authorities. He claimed that there was no longer time to submit a notification within the time-limit established by law because of the last-minute announcement of the date of the parliamentary examination of the draft law against which he wished to protest.

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