Say NO to restrictions on peaceful assembly!
There has been outrage over the proposal by the Kyiv City State Administration to seriously restrict peaceful assembly near State institutions. Nor have the reassuring noises from public officials regarding the official scope of the proposed changes allayed fears. The following is the response from the Svidomo Bureau of Journalist Investigations.
At the end of August journalist Dmytro Hnap and a colleague were detained in the Dniprovsko-Teterivsk forest area where President Yanukovych goes hunting. The reason was the lack of a life jacket in the rubber boat they used to get to the zone with its sumptuous buildings.
On 6 September the offices of the ProstoPrint company were searched by the Department for Fighting Organized Crime [UBOZ] and property seized. The company, run by Denis Oleinykov, printed T-shirts with the slogan “Thank you residents of Donbas”, the slogan thought up by fans of the Kyiv football team Dynamo. The official excuse for the seizure – forging of souvenir products for Euro 2012.
Now the authorities are proposing to adopt Regulations which will restrict mass-scale public events. As reported, the Kyiv City State Administration has posted the draft Regulations on their website.
Why is this important?
The initiative appeared on the day when veterans of the Afghanistan War stormed parliament, and Denis Oleinykov spoke about how those in power would soon have a hard time. Perhaps you already protest on the street, maybe you’ll go out there tomorrow. The Kyiv City State Administration’s proposal will create a huge number of obstructions.
What is the Mayor’s Office proposing?
Firstly, it will only be possible to hold a mass event after agreeing it with the Mayor’s Office. Even information about it can only be circulated after the written consent from officialdom.
Secondly, you can’t stand closer than 100 metres from a State institution. And that is allowed only between 9.00 and 22.00.
Thirdly, you have to obtain permission for any tent, stand, flag or banner.
And the application must be submitted 10 days before, together with the scenario and a conclusion that Kyiv residents will support the event. Such a study needs to be carried out by a municipal enterprise at the organizers’ expense. You also need to add another five or so documents to the application.
Why has the Mayor’s Office done this?
Svidomo spoke with Marina Khonda, Head of the Central Department on Internal Policy and Public Liaison of the KCSA. She said that she had initiated the new rules to systematize the norms which are in any case in force for loud entertainment events. And these rules will only apply to commercial organizations which have advertising actions, concerts and film clips. They will not affect news journalists and civic organizations.
She said that the Provisions do not extend to meetings, demonstrations etc, and that this is stated in Item 1.4. It is indeed, and the Head of the KCSA Oleksandr Popov told Channel 5 that he would not allow mass events to be restricted, and that the Administration would not sign regulations which restrict democratic principles.
The Regulations say that they apply only to mass events held in accordance with the Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations, public services, religious rites, ceremonies and processions.
Experienced human rights activists have actively discussed the draft and see it as potentially dangerous. Even now when the law demands only notification of a planned meeting and this can be minutes before it is to begin, the police, facing pressure from higher up, look for something to quibble over.
Svidomo experienced this on 9 September when a police officer tried to stop an activist from erecting a child’s tent near the Mayor’s Office in protest at the move of the History of Kyiv Museum without documents confirming that the building was safe. The police officer demanded a permit for the play tent, calling it a “small architectural form”.
How to protect your rights
1. Up till 12 October you can offer your comments and suggestions to the Kyiv City Council. You can refer to:
a) Article 39 of the Constitution on Peaceful Assembly. That simply says that people must warn of a planned gathering without stipulating when.
b) Article 92 § 1 of the Constitution which stipulates that only laws of Ukraine determine rights and freedoms, guarantees of these and citizens’ main duties. This draft is not a law.
c) Article 24 of the Law on Information according to which only a law or court order can obstruct the circulation of information in the media. These regulations seek to make circulation possible only after written permission has been obtained.
2) Circulate information as widely as possible. While the Regulations say they don’t affect meetings, etc, there is a danger that the police or officialdom will twist this.