On December 6th, 2011, during mass protests in St Petersburg Filipp Kostenko, public activist and employee of the human rights organisation Anti-discrimination centre Memorial, was arrested and put into detention centre at Zakharyevskaya str., 6, and embarked on hunger strike.
A few days earlier, on November 25th, he was arrested at one-person picket at the office of the Embassy of the Republic of Belarus in St Petersburg, although all legal requirements for a picket were observed. The demands of the picket was to release Belarusian human rights activist Ales Beliatski and other political prisoners in Belarus. Kostenko was accused in insubordination to police, but the case was never brought to the court as no proofs of the illegality of the picket were found.
The arrests of people, who came to peacefully protest the violations that occurred during the elections, were baseless. ADC “Memorial” considers any prosecutions, for realising the right to peacefully assemble, to be unlawful and contradicting the international norms. The unobstructed exercise of this right is especially important in connection with the right to free elections in a democratic society, as a condition, for guaranteeing the freedom of expression and acting as an effective instrument for protecting the rights of the citizens, when they are violated. As the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, has noted in connection to the developed situation, “the right to freedom of assembly is extremely important, and in particular – after elections; this right is protected by the European Convention for Human Rights. Arresting people and sentencing them to prison, only because they participated in the protests, contradicts the European Convention.”
The Amnesty International, in its statement on December 5th, also declared all those, who were arrested and detained during the peaceful protests, to be prisoners of conscience, demanding their immediate release (“They are prisoners of conscience and should be immediately released”).
Besides groundlessness and disproportion of punishment for participating in peaceful protests, ADC “Memorial” also expresses extreme concern for the conditions of the detention of the convicted prisoners on 6 Zakharyevskaya Street. Earlier, in a case that ADC “Memorial” has conducted at the ECHR, the conditions of detention in this establishment have been recognised by the European Court to be inhumane and violating the international norms.
On December 7th, 2011, the judge of the 203th court department in St Petersburg sentenced Filipp Kostenko 15 days of arrest – maximum administrative punishment – which, according to the law, should be used only in exceptional instances. The decision of the court states that Kostenko was sentenced for insubordination to a policeman who asked Filipp „to stop participating in the demonstration.“ The maximum punishment is obviously disproportionate to the action and is repressive measure aimed against public and human rights activist who was realising his right to expression of opinion and right to assemble.
After the sentence for 15 days, Filipp Kostenko embarked on hunger strike as he considers his arrest illegal and demands all arrested people during peaceful mass protests to be released. Another arrestee, Viktor Demyanenko, who was sentenced for 10 days, joined the hunger strike.
ADC Memorial demands to stop persecutions for peaceful realisation of the human rights, to observe international rules guaranteeing the right to assemble and the right to fair elections and release illegally arrested and sentenced people, including human rights activist Filipp Kostenko.