Report released on Freedom of Assembly in the Russian Federation in 2009. Violations and Solution
Aleksei Kozlov, green human rights activist and leader of ‘The Green Alternative’ (GA) and Nataliya Zvyagina, an expert on freedom of assembly and representative of interregional human rights group ‘Moscow Helsinki Group’ (MHG) discussed the report in the Independent press. Kozlov explained that the idea of writing reports was brought up in 2006 after massive constitutional violations on freedom of assembly, in particular during the G8 summit in St Petersburg. “Freedom of assembly is the last political right available to citizens of Russia and a way of letting the authorities know of their hopes.” According to Kozlov, in preparing the report in 2009 the GA first sought the assistance of the MHG when collecting information from the regions. As a result, information was obtained from twenty two regions and a number of violations were identified.
According to experts, the main problems with the implementation of the right to freedom of assembly have not changed from previous years. Thus, on the issue of public demonstrations the authorities have regularly attempted to change the location and type of protests, most often at demonstrations and marches. There has also been an almost universal decline in the number of protesters. In addition, it has been noted that the authorities separate the city into ‘ghettos’ where demonstrations take place. For example, in the capital, Shevchenko Embankment (between the river and the factories) is for marches and Bolotnaya Square (between the canal and the park) is for rallies. During these demonstrations, the only way to end them is to arrest demonstrators rather than negotiate with the organisers. “These problems have been around for a long time and they continue to this day” says Kozlov. After a steady deterioration in 2005 the situation has been stabilised, and there is a positive trend in society (a decline in the number of protestors and a reduction in the number of reasons for the authorities’ opposition to public demonstrations). The report’s writers hope that there will be progress in strengthening citizens’ right to freedom of assembly. . However, according to Zvyagina in 2010 two events overshadowed progress – discussion of introducing a law that would oblige citizens to notify the authorities if they want to protest alone, and a suggestion by Moscow’s Ministry of Internal Affairs that the punishment for unauthorised demonstrations should be fifteen days in prison.
The report is available on www.article20.org
Translated by Lina Numan