Russia: Supreme Court Plenum resolution is glimmer of hope for the right to protest

Responding to the resolution by the Plenum of the Russian Supreme Court to provide guidance to lower courts hearing cases related to public assemblies, published today, Amnesty International’s Russia Researcher Anastasia Kovalevskaya said:

“This long-awaited resolution will hopefully provide some much-needed protections to peaceful protesters in Russia – especially the provisions aimed at reducing their arrests and administrative detentions. Over the past year and a half we have documented numerous cases where people were denied their basic right to gather peacefully.”

“However, this resolution will mean nothing unless it is effectively implemented. And it’s only a half-measure, as comprehensive and meticulous work is needed to bring Russian legislation on public gatherings into compliance with international human rights law and standards.”

“We reiterate our call on the Russian authorities to drop all restrictive policies on public gatherings and to stop treating freedom of assembly as a privilege they can either give or deny to the Russian people.”

Background

On Wednesday 27 June, the Plenum of the Supreme Court for the first time agreed to provide guidance for administrative cases concerning freedom of assembly.

The resolution[1] includes several progressive recommendations to lower courts, such as by reducing their ability to impose administrative detention – currently widely used against peaceful protesters – to only extraordinary cases.

The resolution states that the authorities’ requests to change the time and venue of protests should be realistic and the alternative time and venue should accommodate achieving their legitimate aim.

It also states that forcibly persuading employees to join protests may constitute a criminal offence.

Other points in the resolution remain restrictive, such as the proposal that gatherings on private premises are subject to the authorities’ approval and deeming several single-person pickets with the same message as a public gathering.

[1] The text in Russian is publicly available at http://www.supcourt.ru/documents/own/26969/.