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Single-person demonstrations can’t be considered rallies, Russia’s Human Rights Commissioner says

Source: Interfax

Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova has spoken out against considering single-person demonstrations rallies, stating that they do not constitute unauthorized “mass events,” even in the context of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Moskalkova made this statement in a comment on the arrest of municipal deputy and journalist Ilya Azar, during a video conference with the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner, Dunja Mijatović. 

“There was a debate about the status of picketing during the pandemic. And we have expressed our point of view on picketing: the legislation must be upheld in the way in which its authors enshrined it into law and as the president signed it. And there can be no deviation here, a picket can’t be considered a rally,” Moskalkova said, as cited by Interfax. 

On May 26, Novaya Gazeta journalist Ilya Azar was arrested for holding a single-person picket outside of the police headquarters in Moscow. He was initially sentenced to 15 days administrative arrest, but his sentence was later reduced to 10 days.

Azar’s arrest sparked a series of single-person demonstrations in Moscow beginning on May 28, as journalists, activists, and municipal deputies protested in solidarity. Rallies in support of Azar also took place in St. Petersburg and Nizhny Novgorod. The demonstrations continued over the course of several days, during which law enforcement detained around 130 protesters in these three cities. Many of the protesters received fines for violating the laws on staging public demonstrations. 

A number of legal professionals have also been arrested for staging single-person demonstrations during the coronavirus lockdown. And law enforcement have continued to arrest solo-picketers, even after the lifting of quarantine restrictions. For example, on June 22, at least 21 protesters were arrested in Moscow for staging single-person demonstrations in support of the suspects in the “Network” terrorism case.