- The right of individuals to gather with other people and make their collective voice heard is fundamental to a properly-functioning democracy.
- The European Convention on Human Rights and the case law of the Strasbourg court require governments to put appropriate laws and procedures in place, to allow people to enjoy this right.
- The European Court of Human Rights has helped individuals and organisations to use their right to protest all over the continent.
Hyde Park is a free speech NGO. It organised a series of protests in Chişinău in 2005 and 2006. However, the authorities banned the events, giving reasons such as the fact that they disagreed with the point the protest was making. The European court ruled that the bans violated the right to free assembly. This and other cases led to reforms to protect free assembly in Moldova.
Four Ukrainians formed a group to help protect their local environment. However, when they tried to register their association the authorities refused, relying on administrative technicalities. The group had to dissolve. The European court ruled that this had violated the group’s right to freedom of association. In 2013 a new Law on Civil Associations created proper rules to protect such groups.
A human rights NGO planned a march in Yerevan, to commemorate a man who had died in police custody. The Mayor’s office banned the march. The Strasbourg court ruled that the ban had not been properly justified, breaching the NGO’s right to free assembly. After the ban, reforms were made to protect the right to hold public demonstrations in Armenia.
In 2001 the Christian Democratic People’s Party of Moldova organised peaceful public protests calling for elections and European democratic values. The authorities banned the meetings. The Strasbourg court ruled that the ban had been disproportionate, and violated the right to free assembly. This case and others led to substantial reforms to protect the right to free assembly in Moldova.
Arrest of human rights campaigner during his anti-corruption protest sparks freedom of assembly reforms
Human rights defender Oleksiy Vyerentsov organised demonstrations to protest against corruption. The peaceful gatherings were banned, Mr Vyerentsov was convicted of an offence and he was sentenced to three days’ detention. The European court ruled that his rights had been breached. The case led to ongoing reforms to protect the right to peaceful demonstrations in Ukraine.
An NGO organised a series of demonstrations in Warsaw, to highlight discrimination against women and minorities. The gatherings were banned, after the city’s mayor said that he was against them because they included support for homosexual rights. The Strasbourg court ruled that the ban violated the right to public assembly. This led to changes to Polish law to protect the right to protest.