The declared the prohibition of the picket in support of victims of torture in the center of Nizhny Novgorod to be legal


10 July 2017

The Nizhegorodsky District Court declared the decision of the Nizhny Novgorod Administration which refused to approve the picket arranged to coincide with the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture at the Teatralnaya Square to be legal. The lawyers with the Committee for the Prevention of Torture intend to appeal against this ruling.   

(Sergey Babinets at the single picket at 26 June)

In 1997 upon the recommendation of the Economic and Social Council the General Assembly of the United Nations declared 26 June the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. This day is dedicated to the attracting public attention to the necessity of eradicating torture and implementing the provisions of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment dated 1984, which took effect on 26 June 1987.

Every year on 26 June in many countries of the world various activities and public events in support of victims of torture take place. Over a number of years’ street pickets took place in Nizhny Novgorod, too, namely – at the Teatralnaya Square. 

On 19 June of this year lawyer with the Committee for the Prevention of Torture Sergey Babinets, as the picket’s organizer, notified the City Administration about his intention to conduct this event at the Teatralnaya Square on 26 June, aiming at informing the general public on the necessity to observe the national legislation on prevention of torture and on unacceptability of applying torture.   

On the next day Head of Department of Security and Mobilization Preparation of Nizhny Novgorod Aleksandr Ilchenko pointed out in his refusal to approve the time and place of conducting the public event: “Bolshaya Pokrovskaya Street/13, claimed in the notification as the place of public event  (in front of the Nizhegorodsky State Academic Theatre of Drama named after M.Gorky) is not included in the list of unified specially dedicated or adapted for collective discussion of socially important issues and expressing public sentiments, as well as of the mass presence of citizens for public expression of public sentiment regarding relevant problems predominantly of social and political nature in the territory of Nizhny Novgorod”.

At the same time the representative of the City Administration offered several alternative places for conducting the picket.  

– These locations were not suitable for us at all, since they are far from the city center and have low pedestrian traffic. Conducting the picket in the offered locations would not have allowed to inform the citizens of Nizhny Novgorod on the existence of the problem of torture, – Babinets says.

It was decided to appeal against the ruling of the City Administration at court, and to conduct the event, after all. As a result, on 26 June a single-person picket was conducted at the Teatralnaya Square with the use of the tablets on which the passers-by could read the stories of forty applicants of the Committee who suffered from tortures.     

On 6 June 2017 the Nizhegorodsky District Court, having examined the arguments of the parties, came to the conclusion that the decision of the Nizhny Novgorod City Administration to refuse to authorize the picket at the Teatralnaya Square is legal.

In the course of the examination of the complaint at court the representatives of the City Administration Aleksandr Mizeriy and Elvira Gabeleva referred to the provision of the Russian Federation Presidential Decree on enhancement of security measures for the period of the World Football Championship of 2018. Allegedly, it is due to this World Cup that the restrictions regarding public events were introduced by the City Administration.   

– Indeed, the Presidential Decree introduces restriction with regard to conducting public events, however, it will be applicable in Nizhny Novgorod only during the period of the Championship – from May to July 2018. That is why such “proactive” restricting measures of the City Administration are illegal, and the references to the Decree are incorrect, – Babinets emphasizes.

In addition, the defendants’ representatives claimed that the City Administration did not authorize any public events at Bolshaya Pokrovskaya street, and the picket that Sergey Babinets wanted to conduct, was not an exception. In evidence to this, a dozen and a half of notifications for conducting public events, from pickets to several thousand strong concerts, were demonstrated at court; the ones that the City Administration did not want to authorize either.

– I cannot consider this argument to be correct either, – Babinets continues, – in March and April of this year several public events were conducted at the Teatralnaya Square: two pickets of hoodwinked investors, picket for prohibition of circuses with animals. In my opinion, the court was not objective in examination of the parties’ arguments and passed illegal and ungrounded ruling. I consider actions of the City Administration to be illegal and violating my constitutional right to freedom of assembly. I’m planning to insist on reversal of the civil servants’ decision, even if in order to do that I’d have to go to the International Court.

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