Russia Loses Protest Cases in European Rights Court

STRASBOURG, France (CN) – The European Court of Human Rights found Russia violated its citizens’ right to freedom of assembly and expression in a pair of rulings Tuesday.

The court issued rulings in Razvozzhayev v. Russia and Ukraine and Udaltsov v. Russia as well as Obote v. Russia, siding in each case with the Russian citizens who were protesting against Moscow.

The Kremlin in Moscow.

The Razvozzhayev and Udaltsov case dates back to 2012 when political activists Leonid Razvozzhayev and Sergei Udaltsov organized a rally against what they called rigged parliament and presidential elections. The results of that election saw President Vladimir Putin return to office for a third term.

An estimated 20,000 people turned out on New Arbat Avenue in Moscow before the demonstration was shut down by the riot police. Udaltsov was arrested and Razvozzhayev fled to Ukraine, where he requested asylum.

Razvozzhayev disappeared while visiting a nonprofit organization in Kyiv to get help with legal aid. He turned up two days later in a Moscow courtroom, claiming he had been abducted and tortured by the Russian government. Moscow claims he turned himself in voluntarily.

Ukraine is also named in Razvozzhayev’s complaint for allegedly refusing to adequately carry out an investigation into his claims of kidnapping.

Both men were sentenced to four and a half years in prison in 2014. They were released from Siberian prison camps in 2017. Udaltsov went on a hunger strike during his detention to protest his treatment and had to be hospitalized.

The seven-judge panel of the European Court of Human Rights found unanimously Tuesday that Moscow had violated  Razvozzhayev and Udaltsov’s right to liberty and security and right to a fair trial. The court also ruled Moscow violated the prohibition of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment.

The ruling blames the Russian government for the violence that erupted during the protest, as Moscow officials moved the location of the protest and hadn’t communicated properly to the organizers. It also says that Russia held both men for longer than legally allowed and in inhumane conditions.

The court ordered Russia to pay Razvozzhayev 11,000 euros in damages and Ukraine to pay 4,000, or about $12,200 and $4,400, respectively. Moscow was ordered to pay Udaltsov 9,000 euros, or $9,900.

The court found similarly against Moscow in an unrelated case from 2009.

Andrey Obote participated in what the ruling called a flash mob in front of the Office of the Russian Government in Moscow. Obote, together with six other people, placed tape over his mouth and held up a blank sheet of paper to protest government corruption. When told to disperse by the police, Obote asked why they were being asked to do so. He was then arrested.

He was charged with “failing to give prior notification of a public gathering” and fined 1,000 Russian roubles – around $25 at the time.

In his case, the seven-judge panel also found unanimously that “seven people standing in silence with their mouths sealed with adhesive tape and holding blank sheets of paper hardly represent a threat to public order.”

“The domestic authorities did not show the requisite degree of tolerance towards their peaceful gathering despite the absence of any risk of insecurity or disturbance, seemingly in disregard of what the Court has emphasized on numerous occasions,” the ruling states.

The court ordered Russia to pay Obote 4,000 euros in damages, or $4,400.

The Strasbourg-based court was created by the European Union Convention on Human Rights in 1953 and hears cases on political freedom and human rights.

Tuesday’s rulings are just some of many in recent years in which the Court of Human Rights has sided against Russia on a variety of topics. The court held in 2018 that a Russian ban on citizens who had recent access to state secrets from traveling abroad was a violation of freedom of movement.

Just last week, the Russian government announced that it paid the punk rock group Pussy Riot 37,000 euros, or $41,000, which the court had ordered Moscow to pay after the band’s members were arrested for a performance in Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral in 2012.

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