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  2. The Supreme Court of Komi upheld the refusal to allow holding public actions in Stefanovskaya Square

The Supreme Court of Komi upheld the refusal to allow holding public actions in Stefanovskaya Square

Ivan Zhuravkov
Stefanovskaya Square
Photo by Dmitry Stepanovsky
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The Supreme Court of Komi upheld the refusal of the Syktyvkar Administration to allow holding a picket in Stefanovskaya Square. Human rights advocate Viktor Vorobyov wanted to hold it. He pointed out that officials did not allow holding rallies in the square because court-houses were located there. But this viewpoint contradicts the decision of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Vorobyov told 7x7 about it.

The human rights advocate filed a notice to hold a picket with up to five people in Stefanovskaya Square on December 11. He was going to speak in support of the initiative of the Communist Party deputy Oleg Mikhailov to keep half of the amount of taxes from extraction of commercial minerals in the republic's budget. A third of the Timan-Pechora Oil and Gas Province, a large Pechora Coal Basin, and three shale coal basins are located in the territory of Komi. The State Council of Komi rejected the deputy's bill, and officials did not approve Vorobyov’s picket.

The human rights advocate pointed out that the town administration traditionally prohibited holding rallies in the square, and those who held them were fined.

He explained that he had tried to negotiate the rally after the courts had closed six administrative cases against activists Alyona Zezegova and Nina Popugaeva. In the summer, the young women protested against amendments to the Constitution in Stefanovskaya Square.

The human rights advocate wanted to check whether officials would comply with the decision of the Constitutional Court of Russia and the European Court of Human Rights, which declared the ban on rallies in Stefanovskaya Square illegal. After the administration did not allow holding a picket, he went to court.

The Syktyvkar Town Court found the decision of the mayor's office legal. Judge Alexander Lekontsev explained that the ECHR had spoken only "about the ban on holding rallies in the square in general, but not about the ban on holding rallies near court-houses."

According to Vorobyov, the ruling of the ECHR states that the ban on rallies in the square due to the adjacency of courts to it cannot be considered as "necessary in a democratic society" without taking specific circumstances into account. The human rights advocate appealed the decision of the town court to the Supreme Court of Komi, but lost the case on December 16.

“The Supreme Court of the Komi Republic has once again protected its colleagues from the need to see a picket, which is absolutely not connected with these instances, 100 meters from their windows. Such a demonstrative and arbitrary impairment of the right to freedom of assembly has already caused confusion among the judges of Strasbourg. I think that this time, the ECHR will not understand the judgements, delivered in Syktyvkar today, either. I feel nothing but secondhand embarrassment for such a clear legal impotence of the judiciary in the Komi Republic,” Vorobyov said.

In July 2011, the Administration of Syktyvkar adopted amendments to the Order on Identifying Places (Land Plots) Where Public Events Are Banned.

Officials banned public events, including one-person pickets which do not require the authorities’ approval, within a radius of 150 m from the court-houses' entrance. Shortly before this decision, the republican Constitutional Court moved to the building of the State Council of Komi, and Stefanovskaya Square was closed to holding public actions.

Despite the fact that in November 2019, the Constitutional Court of Russia demanded that bans on rallies at the authorities’ buildings and in Stefanovskaya Square in particular be lifted, holding them is still prohibited there.


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