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The Venice Commission brands Constitutional Court’s decision on Right of Assembly ‘insufficient’

12 March 2013 

Source: (info)
The European Commission for Democracy through Law (also known as the Venice Commission) has welcomed the decision made by the Constitutional Court of Russia regarding the amendments adopted in summer 2012 toughening the federal law “On gatherings, rallies, demonstrations, marches and protests”, but considered this resolution insufficient.

As stated by Moscow-based news site, citing the Russian newspaper Kommersant, members of an advisory body within the European Council ‘highly recommended’ that the State Duma review the amendments whilst taking into account not only the opinion of the Constitutional Court, but also that of the Commission itself.

The Venice Commission emphasised that the Constitutional Court had not resolved all problems identified previously, and had not clarified certain points in sufficient detail. In particular, experts pointed out that the guarantee of freedom of assembly should be extended not just to citizens, but to all those residing in the country.

The Constitutional Court’s decree on the law on gatherings was published on 14th February. The court recognized that the law corresponded to the Constitution, but demanded the alteration of a number of articles. In particular, the new penalty for breaking the rules of conducting a public meeting (at least ten thousand roubles) was considered too high, the organizer’s liability for the actions of participants was declared ‘incompatible with universally recognized democratic standards of the freedom of peaceful assembly’, and the regulations on the creation of ‘Hyde Parks’ were considered incomplete.

Three judges of the Constitutional Court spoke out in dissent: Sergey Kazantsev, Vladimir Yaroslavtsev and Yuri Danilov declared that deviations from the usual procedure of adopting a law, deviations permitted by the State Duma, were grounds enough to revoke the whole law in its entirety.

The criticism of the new law on public meetings was declared at the plenary session of the Venice Commission which took place on 8th March. The examination of the document, prepared for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) back in autumn 2012 by British lawyer Richard Clayton, Finola Flanagan (Irish commissioner of law reform) and Wolfgang Hoffmann-Riem (former judge at the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany) was temporarily suspended while the law was discussed at the Constitutional Court of Russia. Experts’ opinions did not change in that time: the Commission called for its revocation or the serious reviewing of amendments not conforming, in their opinion, to international standards.