Ukraine taken to Strasbourg over alleged violation of freedom of peaceful assembly


The European Court of Human Rights has passed the case of Odessa resident Mykhailo Shmushkovych for the Ukrainian Government for its comments. The case is supported by the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union’s Strategic Litigations Fund.

On 19 March 2009 Mykhailo Shmushkovych, Vice-President of the youth organization “Zelenka” and a member of the Odessa City Council held a peaceful picket without any public order offences. Yet he was fined 170 UAH for holding it.

The circumstances were all rather strange. 16 days after the picket a senior police officer turned up at his flat and drew up a protocol on an administrative offence under Article 185-1 of the Code of Administrative Offences, supposedly committed on 19 March 2009.  The protocol did not indicate what the offence was.

Most interesting is that both the first instance and the appeal court judges agreed to this presentation of facts and stated that the notification of the planned picket needed to have been submitted 10 days prior to the event, not 2 days as had been the case.

Arguments that there is only one single legislative norm regulating freedom of peaceful assembly, that being Article 39 of the Constitution, and that this does not demand notification 10 days before, that it stipulates that the right to peaceful assembly can only be restricted by a court and only on the grounds stipulated by that article which do not include lack of notification made no impression on the court.

It should be pointed out that the first instance court ruling was for some reason not announced immediately and in public during the court hearing as is demanded by Article 285 of the above-mentioned Code. It was handed to Shmushkevych’s representative only 3 hours after the court hearing ended.

The Odessa Regional Court of Appeal upheld that first ruling and found no procedural infringements. The ruling took force and was not subject to appeal.

UHHRU considered the case of strategic significance and lodged an application with the European Court of Human Rights. 

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