On 27 July 2019, hundreds of demonstrators were arrested and detained in Moscow amid an escalating repression of the right to protest. The peaceful demonstrations broke out in response to a decision by the electoral commission to not allow a number of independent candidates to stand in a September election for Moscow’s municipal parliament. Protesters were confronted by police and the National Guard who declared the protests ‘unauthorised’ and began to detain individual protesters, taking them to detention centres by buses. According to OVD-Info, at least 152 people have spent two nights in detention; some of who are already facing charges of ‘Violating the Established Procedure for Arranging or Conducting a Meeting, Rally, Demonstration, Procession or Picket.’
“These arrests and detentions represent a serious escalation in Russia’s repression of peaceful dissent, a right which is protected under international law,” said Sarah Clarke, Head of Europe and Central Asia at ARTICLE 19. “Russia must immediately release demonstrators and drop all charges against them.”
ARTICLE 19 urges the Russian authorities to:
- Immediately release all protesters detained during participation in the 27 July protest and drop the charges made against them
- Bring protest-related legislation within the Russian Constitution in line with international standards
- Ensure the protection of internationally guaranteed human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and association is applied during all protests.
What are the applicable international standards?
ARTICLE 19 has long advocated for the right to protest and has published a series of recommendations for both states and protesters to ensure this right is protected.
The right to protest is the individual and/or collective exercise of existing and universally recognised human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, among others. According to international standards as outlined in ARTICLE 19’s Principles on protection of human rights in protests, states should fulfil the following obligations relating to the right to protest:
- Restriction: States should not prevent, hinder or restrict the right to protest except to the extent allowed by international human rights law;
- Legislation: States should abolish all legislation, regulations and practices that require, in law or effect, prior permission or licenses in order for protests to take place. Notification regimes for protests should be voluntary;
- Location: States should guarantee the freedom to choose the location of a protest, and the chosen location should be considered integral to its expressive purpose;
- Timing: States should ensure the freedom to choose the manner and form of a protest, including its duration and should refrain from introducing time restrictions on protests in certain locations;
- Policing: States should ensure that the policing of protests should be guided by the human rights principles of legality, necessity, proportionality and non-discrimination. Decisions to disperse protests should be taken as a last resort, in line with these principles.
- Use of force: States must ensure, in law and in practice, that they resort to the use of force only against violent protests, and only when strictly necessary and in proportion to the threat of violence;
- Liability and sanctions: Participation in a protest must never be the basis for suspicion of criminal activity. Any preventative arrests must be based on a reasonable suspicion that a criminal offence is planned;
- Accountability and transparency: State should investigate, prosecute, and ensure accountability for human rights violations committed in the context of protests and must ensure accessible, effective and cost-free remedies for violations of the rights of protesters;
- Reporting on protests: States should allow and actively facilitate reporting on and the independent monitoring of protests by all media and independent observers.