Maria Sereda on what has happened to the right to peaceful assembly in Moscow

posted 19 Dec 2013, 08:34 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 19 Dec 2013, 08:39 ]
16 December 2013

Source: (info)
Source: Amnesty International /

Maria Sereda from Amnesty International (Moscow): "It’s not even a matter of the law on public events. The district prefect can refuse your request to hold a public event without that. You’ll only get approval for a picket of ten people in the capital if you want to promote “traditional values”.

If your purpose is anything other than this, then your event would be sure to be found to interfere with the free passage of pedestrians or cars, or the place where you want to hold it would turn out to be ‘unsuitable’ or ‘inadequate’, or it would be the location for planned snow removal, or road repairs, or even for three other previously agreed public events. And they will send you off to some dark, deserted park far from anywhere.

There is absolutely nothing you can do about this. You can go to court and in a couple of months’ time, perhaps, you’ll get a verdict that the response of the district prefect was found to have been illegal, although this will in no way prevent the prefect from refusing your further requests to hold an event.

Last Friday, 13 December, we submitted the usual advance notice that we would be holding an event to collect signatures in support of the Bolotnaya prisoners and four other people from different countries, but we were refused. To be more precise, it was not exactly a refusal. They suggested that we collect the signatures in front of the Sakharov Centre in the romantic half-light of a totally empty park.

The principles of work of Amnesty International do not allow us to break the law of any country in which we are working, no matter how absurd they are. Therefore, instead of the public event, we organised a flashmob in Moscow’s Kursk district (where the Sakharov Centre is located), simply putting paper lanterns on the pavement with the words: “Freedom to Prisoners of Conscience”.

Apart from the Bolotnaya prisoners, we dedicated this action to the Burmese doctor, Tun Aung; the Ethiopian journalist Eskinder Nega; the Belorussian LGBT activist, Ihar Tsikhanyuk; and to Hakan Yaman, from Istambul. Further details for writing letters of support for these people can be found on our website A campaign of support to uphold the rights of these individuals is taking place with in the framework of Amnesty International’s “Letter Marathon”, which is currently worldwide.

Special thanks must go to the participants of the Moscow Open School for Human Rights who took part in the action." 

Translated by Frances Robson