Human rights activists urge MPs to defend freedom of peaceful assembly


In an appeal addressed to the heads of parliamentary groups and factions, and MPs, a number of representatives of human rights organizations stress that “freedom of peaceful assembly is one of the cornerstones of democratic society.

The possibility for each person to directly and freely put forward their position ensures pluralism and is a necessary component of the open society which we want Ukraine to be.

Despite the progressive nature of the provisions in Article 39 of Ukraine’s Constitution, implementation of freedom of peaceful assembly remains unsatisfactory in Ukraine. In 2012 the number of court applications to ban peaceful gatherings considered by district administrative courts increased by more than a third as against the previous year, with 349 negative rulings issued.  Judges allowed the vast majority (88%) of the authorities’ applications to restrict peaceful gatherings.

Research has also shown that in at least 86 regional or district centres and cities under regional subordination, bodies of local self-government   or their executive branches have adopted local “provisions” or “regulations” on the organization and holding of peaceful gatherings. Most of these acts impose requirements on holding peaceful gatherings which are not envisaged by Ukraine’s Constitution and laws.

As part of the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review, Ukraine received the recommendation to create appropriate legislation on freedom of peaceful assembly in line with international human rights standards. The same demand is included in the European Court of Human Rights judgment in the case of Veryentsov v. Ukraine.

We welcome the decision by the members of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Human Rights which represents all political factions to support the draft Law on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly. We consider it to be of great value that there is such consolidation around protection of freedom of peaceful assembly. We support the succession regarding work on legal regulation of freedom of peaceful assembly as well as the open nature of the discussion being observed by the Committee on Human Rights, National Minorities and Inter-Ethnic Relations.

We would ask the profile Committee to create a working group for further preparation of the draft for its consideration in the Verkhovna Rada; to carefully consider proposals contained in alternative draft bills, as well as those put forward by different interested individuals. The main provisions of the draft bill comply with the OSCE and Venice Commission Guidelines on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly however we believe that before its final adoption it would be expedient to involve OSCE and Council of Europe experts in the discussion.

We call on MPs to consider issues of human rights protection and freedom of peaceful assembly, not following situational political positions, but guided by the principle of rule of law.

Yevhen Zakharov, Kharkiv Human Rights Group

Natalya Zubar, Maidan Monitoring

Oleksandr Severyn, Maidan Monitoring

Volodymyr Yavorsky, Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union

Arkady Bushchenko, Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union

Yevhen Bystrytsky, International Renaissance Foundation

Roman Romanov, International Renaissance Foundation

Roman Kuybida,  Centre for Political and Legal Reform

Maxim Latsyba, Ukrainian Independent Centre for Political Research

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