07.06.2006 | Yury Chumak, KHPG

Post-Soviet or not so very: Crimean authorities violate the right to peaceful assembly


A motor run Simferopol-Alushta-Partenit-Sevastopol was underway. Since this was an event for the entire Crimea, on 5 May, in accordance with Article 39 of the Constitution of Ukraine, the Council of Ministers of the Crimean Republic had been duly notified. To ensure road safety during the race, the route was agreed with the Crimean law enforcement bodies.

Yet, on 11 May the participants were not admitted on to the territory of the Partenit settlement council. Representatives of the local community, together with the Cossack society “Au-dag”, blocked all roads to the settlement.

On 12 May, the Partenit settlement council, represented by its head Kunev, filed an appeal with the Alushta Town Court to have the motor run banned on the territory of Partenit. The run participants filed a counter suit calling for the actions of the Partenit settlement council to be declared illegal and the decision of the Partenit settlement council “On banning any actions held by Crimean Tatars on the territory of Partenit during the period from 11 to 20 May” to be invalidated.

On the same day the court passed its ruling on the application of the Partenit settlement council: “To prohibit the participants of the motor memorial run to enter the settlement of Partenit”, and ordered them to free all roads leading to Partenit.

The participants of the motor race have lodged an appeal with  the Appeal court of the Crimea against the ruling.

However review of the participants’ claim has been postponed on several occasions. Although in terms of human rights and legality the court ruling should be unambiguous, since a settlement council has no right to ban peaceful gatherings, not to speak of using an overtly discriminatory principle restricting this right for specific people. The decision of the Partenit settlement council “On banning any actions held by Crimean Tatars on the territory of Partenit during the period from 11 to 20 May” was most likely sparked by memories of Soviet days when mass actions had to be authorized.  

However, Article 39 of the Constitution of Ukraine (I would like to remind  Partenit post-Soviet officials that independent Ukraine has existed for 15 years!) stipulates procedure for notification, not permission seeking for mass actions, and it contains no restrictions of the term of notification. The procedure involves the organizers presenting information about the planned action to the local authorities or bodies of local self-government which for their part have no right to forbid the action. Such peaceful assemblies can be prohibited only by court on application from the local authorities or bodies of local self-government.

Then the Alushta court was, to put it mildly, over zealous in banning the participants in the memorial run from entering  the settlement. It violated not only the right for freedom of movement, guaranteed by Article 33 of the Constitution of Ukraine, but also illegally restricted freedom of peaceful assembly.

Such a court restriction is possible only in the interests of national security and public order: with the purpose of preventing disturbances or crimes, protecting the health of the population, rights and freedoms of other persons. In my opinion, the memorial motor run could in no way have endangered the health either of its participants or the dwellers of Partenit.  Nor were crime and disturbances among the objectives of this run. It was possible that opponents from the local community would get into conflict with the run participants and protest against it. Well, in a democratic society everybody has the right to express their opinion – the opportunity to protest had to be given to Cossacks too, and law enforcement organs needed to safeguard public order. There were still no grounds for prohibiting the run.

The League of Crimean Tatars Lawyers “Initsium” have turned to Ukrainian human rights activists asking for assistance in preparing the documents needed for the court proceedings into this case. “Initsium” also asks for any recommendations as to human rights activists specializing in defending the right to peaceful assembly to represent the participants in the motor run in court.

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