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European Court again points to need for Ukraine to regulate peaceful assembly


Ukraine has lost a second case in the European Court of Human Rights this year highlighting the urgent need for legislative regulation of the right to peaceful assembly.  Both cases were successfully represented in Strasbourg by Volodymyr Yavorskyy, member of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union Board.

Case of Shmushkovych v. Ukraine

In March 2009 Mykhaylo Shmushkovych, vice-president of a youth NGO called Zelyonka and member of the City Council, informed the Odessa Mayor and the police of plans to hold a picket outside the Odessa City Council on March 19.  

He was informed by the City Council that holding a picket within such short notice was liable to be considered unlawful. The letter cited the notorious 1988 Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on the procedure for organisation and holding of meetings, rallies, street marches and demonstrations in the USSR.  This Soviet document is frequently used by authorities and the courts in independent Ukraine and requires 10 days notification.  

The picket took place, peacefully and without any disturbances. However on April 4 an administrative offence report was drawn up on the grounds that the picket had been in violation of Article 185-1 of the Code of Administrative Offences.

Both a district and the appeal courts found that Shmushkovych had violated public order by failing to give the Odessa City Council 10 days notice of the picket. He was fined 170 UAH (17 EUR.  The fine was never paid.

The Court cited the case of Vyerentsov v. Ukraine in which it noted a structural problem, namely a legislative lacuna concerning freedom of assembly which has remained in Ukraine since the end of the Soviet Union.  It called on Ukraine to urgently reform its legislation and administrative practice to establish the requirements for the organisation and holding of peaceful demonstrations, as well as the grounds for their restriction”.

It found that there had been a violation of Article 11 (the right to peaceful assembly) and ordered Ukraine to pay him 2 thousand EUR in non-pecuniary damages.

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