The ECHR will examine a complaint against the prohibition of a picket in Nizhny Novgorod in support of victims of torture м


22 May 2018

Lawyers with the Committee Against Torture applied with a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights in the interests of their colleague Sergey Babinets. Human rights defenders think that the state violated his constitutional right to freedom of assembly.

(Sergey Babinets during one-person picket on 26 June)

In 1997, according to recommendation of the Economic and Social Council, the General Assembly of the UN proclaimed 26th of June the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. This day is dedicated to attracting the public attention to the necessity of extermination of torture and providing for execution of the provisions of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment of 1984, which entered into legal force on 26 June 1987.

Annually, on 26 June activities and public events in support of torture victims are conducted in many countries of the world. For many years street pickets have been conducted in Nizhny Novgorod at the Teatralnaya Square.

On 19 June 2017, lawyer with the Committee Against Torture, as an organizer of the picket, notified the administration of the city on his intention to perform this event on 26 June at the Teatralnaya Square aiming at informing the community on the necessity of observing the national legislation on prevention and impermissibility of applying torture.

On the next day head of the Department for Safety and Mobilization Training of Nizhny Novgorod City Administration Aleksandr Ilchenko mentioned in his refusal to approve the time and location of the public event: “The location of the declared public event in the form of the picket – Bolshaya Pokrovskaya street, 13 (in front of the Nizhny Novgorod State Academic Theatre of Drama named after M.Gorky) is not included in the list of the unified dedicated or adapted for collective discussion of important social issues and expression of social frame of mind with regard to relevant problems of predominantly socio-political nature in the territory of Nizhny Novgorod”.

At the same time, the City Administration representative proposed several alternative places for conducting the picket.

– These places did not fit us at all, since they are located far from the center of the city and have low pedestrian traffic. Conducting the picket in the proposed places would not allow to adequately inform the citizens of Nizhny Novgorod about the existence of the torture problem, – Babinets comments.

It was decided to appeal against the ruling of the administration at the court, and to perform the event itself. In the end, on 26 June a one-person picket took place at the Teatralnaya Square with the use of the tables on which the pedestrians could read the stories of the forty applicants of the Committee who suffered from tortures.

On 6 June 2017, the court of the Nizhegorodsky District, having studied the arguments of the parties, came to the conclusion that the decision of the administration of Nizhny Novgorod refusing to approve the picket at the Teatralnaya Square is legal.

In the course of examining the complaint at the court, the representatives of the City Administration Aleksandr Mizeriy and Elvira Gabeleva referred to the provision of the Decree of the President of Russia on security upgrade in the period of the World Football Championship 2018. Allegedly, it is because of the World football Cup the administration introduced the limitations for conducting public activities in the city.

– Indeed, the President’s Decree introduced the limitation for conducting public events; however, in Nizhny Novgorod it will be in force only during the Championship – from May to July 2018. That is why such “preventive” measures of the City Administration are illegal and the references to the Decree are incorrect, – Babinets emphasizes.

However, the ruling of the District Court was later upheld by the Nizhny Novgorod Regional Court and the Supreme Court of Russia.

Since all the domestic remedies to restore the violated rights of Sergey Babinets at the national level were exhausted, the lawyers with the Committee Against Torture were forced to apply to the European Court of Human Rights.
“Intervention in the right to assembly may take various forms. It can be not only a full prohibition to conduct an event, but other limitations. Since freedom of assembly includes, among other things, the right to choose the location of an event, the unjustified refusal to conduct it in a specific place amounts to intervention in the rights, guaranteed by Article 11 of the Convention, – emphasizes lawyer with the Committee Against Torture Ekaterina Vanslova. – This approach of the European Court is described in detail in the ruling in case “Lashmankin and others vs Russia”, when over twenty applicants from different regions of Russia complained that local authorities applied unjustified limitations for conducting peaceful public events planned by them. Accordingly, with today’s complaint we are not creating a new precedent, but predictably expect a similar ruling of the international authority in our case”.

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