RUSSIALINK: “Top Russian court rules in favour of single-person protests” – Interfax

Russian Constitutional Court file photo

(Interfax – May 19, 2021)

Russia’s Constitutional Court has ruled that a series of daily single-person protests do not require official authorisation, upholding the complaint of a woman facing administrative charges for holding such demonstrations.

The court on 19 May ruled unconstitutional the view that such a series of single protests can be regarded as a single public event that requires the permission of the authorities, the Interfax news agency reported.

Therefore, the organiser cannot be charged under Part 2 of Article 20.2 of Administrative Offences Code, which allows persons to be fined for breaching rules governing the organisation of public events, according to the court.

The single-person protest is the only form of demonstration which does not require official permission in Russia, and is often used by activists to circumvent the authorities’ refusal to sanction a protest.

The Constitutional Court’s ruling was issued in response to a complaint filed by Irina Nikiforova, who in February 2020 organised a protest against the construction of an incineration plant in Kazan, according to Interfax

Nikiforova’s protest was held as a series of daily single-person protests lasting less than an hour near the building of the government of Tatarstan.

Nevertheless, Nikiforova was presented with administrative charges as the organiser of an unauthorised public event.

The Constitutional Court examined the constitutionality of Part 11 of article 7 of the Federal Law “On meetings, rallies, demonstrations, processions and picketing” and Part 2 of Article 20.2 of Administrative Offences Code of the Russian Federation.

It stressed that prior notification is necessary for a public event so that the authorities can ensure security during the event, but one-person pickets by themselves do not require such notification.

In a particular case, a court may recognise several pickets united by a single concept and common organisation as picketing carried out by a group of persons, in which case they must be authorised in advance, the Constitutional Court said.

However, “considering the question of whether the aggregate of one-person pickets is one public event, the court must establish not only whether they have a single plan and common organisation, but also the simultaneous holding of such pickets”, it added.

“If one-person pickets are held for several days with the participation of no more than one citizen per day, the recognition of these actions as one public event and imposition of administrative sanctions for holding them without prior notification does not meet the principles of necessity, commensurability and proportionality of restrictions on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly,” the Constitutional Court said.