“Freedom of assembly in the Post-Soviet States”: project’s description, methodology, and limitations.

“Freedom of assembly in Post-Soviet states” is an overview of legislation and its enforcement related to freedom of assembly in Post-Soviet countries.

Any freedom of assembly limitations must follow internationally recognized human rights documents. We find the standard in Guidelines on Freedom of peaceful assembly by OSCE acceptable since all Post-Soviet states are members of OSCE. In this regard, clearly articulated national legislation plays a crucial role as it allows us to determine the limits of permissible authority for the governments.

We understand that the exercise of freedom of assembly is associated with a complex mechanism of various factors: laws, judicial and other law enforcement practices, social, cultural, economic and political climate, etc. But even that minimal framework of several provisions of laws that we have collected is already curious. It allows one to get a minimal idea of ​​the situation with such an important democratic principle as freedom of assembly.

The project was prepared by the team and volunteers of OVD-Info

The history of the problem

Prior to perestroika, there were no mechanisms and algorithms for organizing and carrying out rallies. There were no laws, decrees, acts, or temporary provisions regulating freedom of assembly.

During perestroika, people began to take to the streets en masse, and the authorities were faced with the need to introduce at least some rules for holding rallies (and at the same time responsibility for violating them). The process went from bottom to top. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, each of the 15 countries at different levels adopted and formed its system that guarantees and protects freedom of assembly.

Of interest is how, over the past 30 years, countries with similar experiences have transformed their legal systems and how they have developed differently in the direction of human rights and freedoms. The situation with freedom of assembly is an excellent example by which this transformation can be traced.

How does that affect me?

Freedom of assembly is one of the fundamental freedoms. To show citizenship, to express one’s opinion, to take part in peaceful protests is a right that everyone can exercise.

How did you research the law?

We searched for relevant laws on the websites of the parliaments of countries, in international studies, and scientific publications. We identified four main categories by which we analyzed freedom of assembly: how to get approval for an assembly, what is allowed, what is forbidden, and what responsibilities participants, officials, and organizers have. These four points seem key to us to familiarize ourselves with and obtain information on the situation of freedom of assembly in a country.

Who were our experts?

On each country’s page, there is an item «What experts and participants of public events say» We created questionnaires, which were answered by 50 people from 15 countries, on average — 3 per country. We interviewed people who have relevant experience and who live in the states of the former USSR. Each respondent group had its own focus: journalists who cover the rallies and protests, lawyers who defend activists in the courts, human rights organizations, researchers, and activists.

How did we count the fines?

Conventionally, all 15 former Soviet republics could be divided into those with fixed fines and those whose administrative fine should be calculated. We counted all the fines in the national currency, made one table out of them, then converted to dollars. The choice of this particular currency is due to the fact that it is global.

Why is the map made up of squares?

This project is not intended to assess the laws and enforcement practices that have developed in the countries of the former Soviet Union. We cannot and do not consider it right to rank countries in the race for the title of the best state with freedom of assembly, so we depicted all countries in the form of squares. Freedom of assembly is a fundamental characteristic of a healthy society, and it is not appropriate to line up countries in the queue to the norm, creating ratings, especially for the fact that it turned out to be difficult to achieve for everyone.

Date of publication — November 11, 2019.

The update date is December 24, 2019