Human rights activists win important case for freedom of assembly
A successful civil suit lodged by two human rights defenders has succeeded in quashing restrictions on peaceful assembly imposed by a local authority. Volodymyr Chemerys and Andriy Shulyak, representing the “Respublika” Institute filed their suit calling for the “Regulations on holding mass events in the city of Dnipropetrovsk” passed by a decision of the City Executive Committee on 21 August 2003 to be quashed.
On 30 March 2007 the Babushkinsky District Court in Dnipropetrovsk ruled that the decision to approve these Regulations had been unlawful. The local authorities have not yet lodged an appeal against the ruling.
Andriy Shulyak had asked the court to recognize that the Decision by a local authority to impose its own Regulations did not comply with legal acts of a higher juridical force, namely the Ukrainian Constitution and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. By imposing time periods for notifying the authorities of a planned mass event, and restricting the choice of place of such events, the local authoritys decision had violated the right of citizens to freedom of assembly as guaranteed by the Constitution.
The courts ruling was based on a careful reading of both documents of higher legal force mentioned above, and entirely upheld the position of the human rights defenders.
The ruling is important since it clearly shows that the local authorities are not entitled to impose regulations on freedom of peaceful assembly. This freedom is guaranteed by the Constitution and can only be restricted on the basis of a law which has still not been passed. Since one of the main reasons for violations of freedom of assembly in Ukraine are such arbitrarily and unlawfully passed decisions by local authorities, the impact of this ruling will hopefully be major.