Russia's Constitutional Court says protest permits can't be refused because of bad security planning
Russia’s Constitutional Court has ruled that poorly prescribed security measures are insufficient grounds for state officials to refuse to review a permit request for a public assembly.
The ruling was handed down in a case brought by Irkutsk activist Valery Teterin, whose permit requests local officials rejected repeatedly on the pretense that he failed to specify “the forms and methods of ensuring public order and organizing medical aid.” Teterin argued that uncertainties in Russian legislation on public assemblies have allowed the authorities to evaluate permit requests arbitrarily, in violation of the Constitution.
The Constitutional Court declined to strike down any legislation as unconstitutional, but it did indicate that responsibility for ensuring public safety lies primarily with law enforcement agencies, and cannot be delegated to demonstration organizers. Judges ruled that state officials should suggest changes, not prohibit public assemblies outright, when the organizers’ proposed measures seem insufficient. “If no agreement is reached [...] the organizer can appeal to the courts,” which should review the matter “as soon as possible,” the Constitutional Court ruled.
Valery Teterin is 26 years old, disabled, and a lawyer. According to the website Sibir: Realii, he’s been a civic activist for the past nine years. On September 9, 2018, he planned to stage a protest against electoral legislation problems, and he wanted to hold another rally on October 7 to demand changes to Russia’s socioeconomic and political direction. Teterin crowdfunded online to collect the money needed to travel to St. Petersburg to attend his Constitutional Court hearing.