NGO Open Appeal in Defence of Freedom of Peaceful Assembly
Ukraine’s Constitution guarantees each person the right to assemble peacefully without arms and to hold meetings, rallies, processions and demonstrations.
Nonetheless in Ukraine we are seeing widespread and systemic violations of freedom of peaceful assembly. In 2011 administrative courts issued over 200 decisions regarding applications to ban peaceful gatherings, with the gatherings being prohibited in 90% of these cases. The tendency this year has been towards an increase in the number of such cases and in the percentage of bans.
The number of people facing administrative liability for infringements of the procedure for organizing and holding meetings, rallies, processions and demonstrations this year runs into the hundreds, if not thousands. There are frequent cases where the law enforcement bodies seek to obstruct people taking part in peaceful assembly, unwarrantedly stop peaceful gatherings and detain participants, resort to excessive use of force and special means against participants in peaceful protests.
One of the reasons for these violations is the lack of proper legislative regulation. It is at the level of law that a clear and exhaustive list of grounds for court restriction of peaceful gatherings can be established; the use of detention and administrative arrest against organizers and participants in peaceful gatherings stopped; bodies of local self-government prohibited from issuing their own rules of procedure for holding peaceful gatherings or stipulating where they can be held; the right to hold spontaneous, once-off peaceful gatherings and counter-demonstrations guaranteed, and so forth.
We believe that the draft Laws on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly, No. 2450 and On Amendments to Some Legislative Acts on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly are aimed at achieving this.
The provisions of these draft laws in general comply with the OSCE Guidelines on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly, judgements issued by the European Court of Human Rights and Venice Commission recommendations.
We are concerned over the politicization of the process for reforming legislation on freedom of peaceful assembly and call on all political forces to approach resolution of this issue solely from the point of view of protesting fundamental freedoms and Ukraine’s democratic development.
We believe that freedom of peaceful assembly must be protected and that this should be facilitated by the adoption of the new Law on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly.
We call on MPs to immediately and simultaneously pass the draft Laws on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly, No. 2450 and On Amendments to Some Legislative Acts on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly No. 10569, allow for their entry into force as soon as possible, and to also support an information campaign on explaining their provisions.
Yevhen Zakharov, Kharkiv Human Rights Group
Arkady Bushchenko, Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union
Roman Kuybida, Centre for Political and Legal Reform
Volodymyr Yavorsky, Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union
Roman Romanov, Member of the Commission for the Strengthening of Democracy and Affirmation of Rule of Law
Maxim Latsyba, Ukrainian Independent Political Research Centre