Ukraine: Kyiv court bans opposition demonstrations
The Ukrainian authorities must lift a temporary ban on demonstrations in the centre of the capital Kyiv and guarantee the rights to freedom of assembly and expression, Amnesty International said.
“Instead of trying to gag peaceful protesters, the authorities should engage in a dialogue and hear them out. This is legitimate criticism of the government that must be heard,” said Heather McGill, Amnesty International’s researcher on Ukraine.
“The fact that this ban specifically applies to peaceful demonstrations is a particularly blatant violation of the right to freedom of assembly and undermines the rights of all Ukrainians.”
In a 6 January decision that has just been made public, the Kyiv administrative court imposed a two-month ban on demonstrations by opposition activists in the city centre. The authorities have yet to enact the ban, which comes after weeks of sustained protests around the city’s central Independence Square (Maydan).
The ban specifically targets all peaceful assemblies organized by the main opposition political parties.
The court ruling justified the prohibition on the grounds of national security, health and public order. The ban cites the disruption caused to local residents and school children living in the areas where the demonstrations have been taking place, the risk of infectious diseases, the fact that demonstrators have called for the government to step down, and the risk of violent confrontations between riot police and demonstrators.
Limitations to the right to freedom of assembly are allowed in certain situations - for the protection of national security or public safety, public order, public health or morals, or protection of the rights and freedoms of others. But governments should only resort to banning public assemblies in the most extreme cases. International standards specifically state that calling for a government to step down cannot be considered a threat to national security.
The court decision goes on to quote a Kyiv city regulation which allows only government-organized demonstrations in the city centre.
“To apply a ban on the basis of the political views of those demonstrating is an insidious violation of the right to freedom of assembly. This undermines national security rather than upholding it,” said Heather McGill.
As Amnesty International has previously documented, the recent demonstrations in Kyiv have been peaceful, with the exception of one isolated incident on 1 December outside the presidential administration.
“Large peaceful demonstrations such as Euromaydan inevitably cause considerable disruption and inconvenience, but mere inconvenience is never a sufficient reason to restrict the right to freedom of assembly,” said Heather McGill.
“To justify a ban on the grounds that there have been clashes between riot police and demonstrators rather than to seek to police the demonstrations responsibly is a regrettable abdication of responsibility by the Ukrainian authorities.”
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