Saint Petersburg, January 19: assembly for Markelov and Baburova restricted

On January 19 each year a picket is traditionally held in memory of antifascists Anastasia Baburova and Stanislav Markelov, who were murdered by neo-Nazis in 2009. This year a picket was to be held on January 19 on the Field of Mars. Every year antifascist activists try to get from the city authorities an authorization for a manifestation through the streets or a rally, but each year they get a refusal from the former.

Back in 2012 such a refusal that the antifascists had received was appealed in court, but the letter failed to support the right of antifascists for a peaceful assembly in order to commemorate the day when their comrades were killed. An appeal against the refusal by the city Committee for legality and public order to authorize a march was considered by the Smolny district court of Saint Petersburg. Judge Matusyak ruled that the decision of the city authorities had been legal and later this ruling was also upheld by the Saint Petersburg city court.

The same situation arises each year and the authorities claim that the public meeting in memory of murdered antifascists cannot be authorized in due time because of the long “New Year holidays” of the city administration, which in fact violates the right for peaceful assembly and is due to lack of proper coordination between the law on public assemblies and the Labor Code of the Russian Federation. This year one of the organizers of the memorial action decided to appeal this in the Constitutional court, asking to check the corresponding legal regulations which de facto prevent organization of a manifestation on January 19. The claimant requested to check whether these regulations violate the right for peaceful assembly. This appeal was received by the Constitutional court and is at the stage of preliminary consideration now.  The claimant cites the practice of the European court for human rights (ECHR) concerning peaceful assembly, as well as the legal statements by the Russian Constitutional court itself, which had earlier stated that “the aim of rational organization of the activities of state authorities cannot serve the ground for limiting the rights and freedoms”. But it is obvious that the long New Year vacations of the staff of the city administration cannot be considered an acceptable ground for restricting the right to peaceful assembly given the nature of the public meeting and the reasons for choosing this particular date for holding it.

Saint Petersburg city Committee for legality and public order has repeatedly received appeals from citizens, who asked to clarify what should be the date for providing a request for an assembly on January 19 in order for it to be legally processed in due time. But the Committee repeatedly replied with mere references to the law on public assembly, de facto meaning that organizing an assembly on this particular date was impossible due to vacations. This has only confirmed that within this legal practice there exist ungrounded restrictions for the right to peaceful assembly, which should receive a proper consideration by the Constitutional court.

Appeal to the Constitutional court concerning assembly on January 19, 2012 (in Russian)

Leaflet for this assembly (in Russian):

On the eve of this year’s memorial assembly, a round table discussion “From an indifferent society to a society based on solidarity” was organized on January 18, 2014, which was devoted to discussion of the problem of neo-Nazism and racism in Russian socio-political life.

Эта запись так же доступна на: Russian