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Better protections for peaceful demonstrations after protest was banned

Bączkowski and Others v. Poland  | 2007

Better protections for peaceful demonstrations after protest was banned

Not only is democracy a fundamental feature of the European public order but the Convention was designed to promote and maintain the ideals and values of a democratic society

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, 3 May 2007 - © Photo EPOA

Background

Five members of an NGO wanted to organise public gatherings in Warsaw. The aim was to draw public attention to discrimination against women, minorities and the disabled. The mayor gave an interview saying that the assemblies would be banned, because they included support for homosexual rights. His office then refused permission for the gatherings, in a series of decisions relying on administrative technicalities.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The Strasbourg court ruled that the decisions to ban the different marches in Warsaw had either been against Polish law, or had been based on laws which failed to protect the protestors’ rights. In both cases, the right to public assembly had been violated. The decisions risked having a chilling effect on people taking part in public life.

Follow-up

The court’s judgment triggered changes to the Polish Law of Assemblies. The case-law of the Constitutional Court developed, so that the administrative laws applied by the Warsaw mayor’s office in this case could not be used to ban peaceful protests in future. A new Assemblies Act was passed in 2015, with the aim of protecting the right to hold peaceful assemblies in Poland.