Everyone has the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. But in Slovenia it seems people need to pay for exercising these human rights.
Slovenian activist and theatre director Jaša Jenull is being made to pay nearly 35,000 Euros to reimburse the authorities for the cost of policing a protest he attended in June 2020.
He and several others sat on the ground on the Republic Square to read the Constitution aloud, in protest against broad restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly imposed in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. This action was followed by a further, larger protest by other participants.
Along with two separate proceedings to cover policing costs from previous protests, he now faces a bill of nearly 40,000 Euros. And he’s not alone.
Slovenian authorities have announced they will claim more than 970,000 Euros from peaceful protesters to cover for policing services. To date, 28 claims are already being processed for almost 270,000 Euros.
Making protesters pay the costs of policing demonstrations they attend is an attempt to silence dissent and a clear violation of their right to freedom of peaceful assembly.
Internationally protected right
The right to freedom of peaceful assembly is protected under various international and regional human rights treaties to which Slovenia is a state party, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the European Convention of Human Rights.
According to these standards, States have an obligation to allow and actively facilitate demonstrations, including spontaneous assemblies. This includes the need to provide adequate services such as security, cleaning services and first aid, which should not be expected to be covered by the organizers nor the participants of the protest.
The Slovenian authorities have tried to justify their claims for policing costs on the basis that the protests were held without notifying the authorities which, according to the police, required additional resources to ensure public safety due to the lack of planning. But under international human rights law, spontaneous assemblies are equally protected under the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.
Attempting to impose financial sanctions on this basis is an illegitimate interference with the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and violates international and regional human rights standards.
It is of further concern that some individuals with more public visibility, like Jaša Jenull, who has repeatedly rejected claims that he was the organizer of the protests, appear to have been particularly targeted by the authorities in an attempt to amplify the intimidatory message to other protesters.
Creeping restrictions on right to protest
In recent years, concern has been growing over measures taken by the Slovenian authorities to curb people’s participation in protests, including through fines, intimidation, closing public spaces for protests, and imposing a blanket ban on protests for months at end during the Covid-19 pandemic.
As Amnesty International previously pointed out to the authorities, blanket bans constitute a disproportionate restriction on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, even when put in place in the context of a public health emergency like that of Covid-19.
Using such blanket bans on protests to now impose further penalties for those who peacefully exercised their rights only compounds the concerns over the growing restrictions aimed at curbing the right to freedom of peaceful assembly in Slovenia.
Creeping restrictions on the right to protest in Slovenia must stop. The authorities must ensure they facilitate the right to peaceful assembly and ensure people can freely join protests without fear of reprisals.
Tell Slovenia to
ENABLE THE RIGHT TO PEACEFUL PROTEST
Starting by withdrawing claims that make peaceful protesters like Jaša Jenull pay back the costs of policing.