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Constitutional Court confirms special requirements for rally organisers

14 February 2013 

Source: (info
The ban on individuals with multiple administrative convictions from organizing rallies does not violate the rights of Russian citizens, according to a Constitutional Court ruling, reports, citing Interfax. However, the judges of the Constitutional Court believe that the authorities should not discriminate against rally organisers and participants on the basis of their political views. 

In addition, the Constitutional Court has ruled that the special requirements placed on organisers of street protests is fair as it affects a large number of citizens. At the same time, in the opinion of the judges, it leads to a potential risk of public disorder. The ruling says that the recurrence of administrative violations by rally organisers "casts doubt on the organisational ability of such individuals and, most importantly, their ability to run a peaceful public event in a manner prescribed by law".

The ruling by the Constitutional Court underscores that the authorities should not discriminate against rally organisers and participants, based on their political views. "Any response by a public authority to the organisation and running of meetings, rallies, demonstrations, marches and pickets must, in any case, be neutral, regardless of the political views of the organisers and participants," notes the court.

In addition, the Constitutional Court ruled that the organisers of mass protests cannot not reject alternative routes proposed by the authorities without good reason. In the absence of a consensus between applicants and executive authorities, the former are entitled to go to court.

The ruling by the Constitutional Court was announced by its Chairman, Valery Zorkin. The Court was considering a request by a group of State Duma deputies and the leader of The Other Russia, Eduard Limonov to review the constitutionality of the new law on rallies.

In October Limonov had appealed to the Constitutional Court to have the law on protests declared unconstitutional. "The Federal law of 8 June 2012 No. 65-FZ has been challenged. Specifically, paragraph A in Part 1, Article 2 is being contested", it said in The Other Russia statement. According to this paragraph, the right to organise rallies, marches and pickets are denied to those with outstanding convictions for offences against the foundations of the constitutional system and the security of the state or offences against public safety, as well as being denied to those who have been charged with administrative offences.

In addition, the application of the law in a specific case concerning Limonov was also being contested. A magistrate had ruled that Limonov be fined 12,000 roubles in the case of the rally on Moscow's Triumfalnaya Ploshchad on 31 July. The applicant believes this to be in violation of Part 1, Article 54 of the Constitution, according to which a law which introduces or increases liability shall not have retroactive force.

A group of State Duma deputies from A Just Russia and the KPRF (Russian Communist Party) also appealed to the Constitutional Court.  In particular, they consider fines imposed under the new law on rally organisers and participants to be excessive. During the reading of the law in the State Duma, Just Russia supporters submitted over 350 amendments. They believe that the law was passed with serious transgressions of the rules.

On 9 June the federal law "On Amendments to the Russian Federation Code of Administrative Offences and the Federal Law On Assemblies, Rallies, Demonstrations, Processions and Picketing", better known as the "Law on rallies", took effect. On 5 June the law passed its second and third readings in the State Duma and was approved the following day by the Federation Council.

The law stipulates that individuals be fined from 10,000 to 20,000 roubles for "violating legislation on rallies", and up to 300,000 roubles for inflicting damage to health or property. The maximum fine for officials is 600,000 roubles and for legal entities, one million roubles.