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  2. Health protection outweighs freedom to gather. Court in Komi found the ban on rallies due to coronavirus legal

Health protection outweighs freedom to gather. Court in Komi found the ban on rallies due to coronavirus legal

Ivan Zhuravkov
Photo by Dmitry Stepanovsky
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The Constitutional Court of the Komi Republic found a paragraph, prohibiting public events during the coronavirus pandemic, of the Decree of the Head of the Republic on a high-alert mode legal. Lawyer Viktor Vorobyov told 7x7 about this.

Deputies of the Komi State Council from the Communist Party Oleg Mikhailov, Ekaterina Dyachkova, and Ilya Bogdanov appealed to the court to challenge the constitutionality of Paragraph 11 of the Decree of the Head of the Komi Republic dated March 15, 2020, No. 16 "On the Introduction of a High-Alert Mode". It is forbidden to hold any public events, including political ones, in the region.

Lawyer Viktor Vorobyov, representing the applicants before the court, told 7x7 that they had referred to Article 18 of the Constitution of Komi, which states that human and civil rights and freedoms may be restricted by federal law only to the extent necessary to protect the foundations of the constitutional order, morals, health, rights and legitimate interests of others, and to ensure the defense and security of the state. He explained that there were three elements in this rule that made it possible to introduce restrictions: only by federal law, for certain purposes, or only to the extent necessary.

The Constitutional Court ended up recognizing that the paragraph of the decree of the head of the region corresponded to the local Constitution. According to Vorobyov, the statement of reasons says, in particular, that protecting the health of citizens is a public interest that outweighs the private one — freedom to gather. The court also found that freedom to gather during the pandemic violates the rights of citizens to health protection, while the exercise of human and civil rights and freedoms should not violate the rights and freedoms of others, the lawyer said. According to him, the decision also says that the ban on meetings does not violate the right to political activity, since it can be carried out in other forms.

 “No miracles: the Constitutional Court of the republic does not want to protect the Constitution of the republic. The court's extended discourse on the balance of private and public interests (and in a very strange interpretation of these concepts) is actually about proportionality. And it should be discussed lastly. At the same time, the court did not answer the main question — by what right the head of the region „nullifies“ constitutional rights, while he does not have such authority. It is pointless to argue about the other question without answering this one,” Vorobyov said.

Mandatory self-isolation, or high-alert mode, was introduced in Russian regions in the spring due to the pandemic. Unlike the emergency regime or rule, it does not oblige the state to pay compensation to people, however it allows prohibiting any public events. Citizens can be held administratively liable for its violation under Article 20.6.1 of the Administrative Code, the fine being up to 50 thousand rubles.

Human rights activists from different regions of the country were dissatisfied with the legal reasoning of the decrees published by governors, and they decided to challenge them. They did not win any case.

Despite the fact that regional authorities gradually eased up on restrictions over the summer, there were more regions, where public actions and events were completely banned, by September than at the end of March.


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