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Free speech group helps strengthen the right to public protest

Hyde Park and Others v. Moldova  | 2009

Free speech group helps strengthen the right to public protest

We're glad we have won and justice has been done for us…

Oleg Brega, the first President of Hyde Park, as reported by Azi.md

Background

Hyde Park is an NGO that works to protect free speech and the right to freedom of assembly. It is named after Speaker’s Corner in London’s Hyde Park, a site famous for free speech.

Hyde Park organised a number of public protests in Chişinău in 2005 and 2006. One was designed to protect the right to free speech in Moldova. Another was organised in front of the Romanian embassy, to protest against Romania’s policy concerning Moldovan students.

A series of these protests were banned by the city authorities. The reasons given included the government’s disagreement with the point the protest was trying to make and the damage a protest might do to the image of the Moldovan government.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The court recalled that the convention was designed to protect free democratic societies. The right to public assembly is a crucial component of any such society and must include the tolerance of different ideas being expressed in public.

The Moldovan authorities had banned an expression of differing opinions in public, but had not given proper reasons for doing so. This had violated the right to freedom of assembly.

… 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, March 2009

Follow-up

Following this case and a number of others, significant reforms were made to protect freedom of assembly in Moldova. In particular, in February 2008 a new law on freedom of assembly was passed, which established much stronger protections for the right to hold public gatherings.

In 2011 the Supreme Court adopted a decision explaining how the domestic courts should apply legislation to properly protect free assembly. It highlighted the relevant case law of the Strasbourg court, and the need to apply the principle of proportionality.

In the seven years following the adoption of the new law, the Chișinău mayor’s office received 6,865 notifications for public events. It intervened in only 27 cases proposing to change the place and/or time of the event - and involved the courts in only 11 cases.

The Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers continues to monitor reforms to protect freedom of assembly for sexual minorities in Moldova.


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