In Russia, freedom of assembly is regulated by the law № 54-FZ "On Assemblies, Rallies, Demonstrations, Marches and Picketing" as of June 19, 2004. That law requires prior notification regarding the holding of peaceful assemblies.
Procedure for organizing meetings
- organizers must be citizens of Russia who have reached the legal age, legally capable and with no outstanding convictions;
- a notification about the organization of a meeting shall be submitted by organizers no earlier than 15 days and no later than 10 days before the day of the event;
- a notification about the organization of mass or one-person picketing with the use of prefabricated construction structures shall be submitted 3 prior to the date of the planned meeting;
- organizers do not bear any costs for maintaining public order, traffic management, and medical service;
- organizers and participants do bear expenses for inventory and logistics management of the event.
What is allowed
Organizers and participants have the right:
- to organize single-person picket without notice but the distance between protesters must be at least 50 meters;
- to cover their faces with scarves or hoods in case of poor weather conditions.
Restrictions on the right to freedom of assembly
It is prohibited:
- to hold spontaneous assemblies;
- to hold assemblies near Presidential residency and courthouses;
- to hold meetings between 10 PM and 7 AM;
- to wear masks;
- to conduct agitation prior to authorization of the event;
- to hold simultaneous events at the same place and time.
The local authorities can specify locations where it is allowed to hold mass assemblies. Holding events outside of such places requires authorization from the authorities.
- violation of public order shall entail the imposition of a fine of up to $296 for participants and $453 for organizers;
- for further violations fines increase more than tenfold;
- repeated violation of the regulations on assemblies shall entail criminal liability: a fine of up to 1 million rubles or imprisonment for up to 5 years;
- a fine for civil servants can reach $453.
Commentaries of experts and participants of public events
Protesters and human rights activists from Russia claim that the authorities systematically restrict the right to freedom of peaceful assembly. They note that due to the recent changes in the legislation, citizens have basically lost any possibility to hold spontaneous mass rallies.
According to our respondents, the authorities insist on holding events at locations as remote from the city center as possible. Participants of peaceful assemblies are often detained and fined on no grounds, while unauthorized rallies mostly get disrupted. Also, police consistently detain organizers and participants before the start of an assembly or after the event. This notwithstanding, assemblies take place on a regular basis throughout the country.
According to the protesters, the cases of bringing the officials or the law enforcers to justice for violations during the public events are extremely rare. The federal authorities pay fines to the victims in accordance with the European Court of Human Rights decisions. However, they fail to recognize the international human rights bodies’ recommendations to change the legislation.