The “Bolotnoe Affair” and the Implementation of the Right to Freedom of Assembly in the Russian Federation

In: Review of Central and East European Law
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  • 1 Tyumen State University, Åbo Akademi University
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A series of protests across Russia, triggered by procedural violations during the 2011 parliamentary elections and results of the 2012 presidential elections, culminated on 6 May 2012 with a demonstration at Bolotnaia Square in Moscow. That demonstration led to violent clashes between protesters and the police. The dispersal of this demonstration and the subsequent criminal and administrative trials conducted against some of the protesters, as well as the controversy regarding the severity of some of the penalties imposed by the courts, became known as the Bolotnoe Affair. The Bolotnoe Affair is analyzed from the perspective of implementing the right to freedom of assembly in Russia. The main goal is to conduct a contextual legal analysis clarifying whether the right to freedom of assembly is adequately implemented in the legal order of the Russian Federation, in order to illustrate whether the protesters in the Bolotnoe Affair were able to express their opinions with regard to the procedure and results of the elections. The leading court cases relevant to the participatory rights of the protesters as exemplified by the appellate decisions of the Moscow City Court will also be examined. In particular, twelve decisions of the Moscow City Court during the period 2012–2014 (full texts of which are reproduced in publicly available legal databases) are reviewed, as well as two recent judgments in European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) cases closely related to these earlier cases. Analyzing the Moscow City Court decisions vis-à-vis the judgments of the ECtHR, the author concludes that the Moscow City Court’s rulings did not conform with the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights (echr) regarding the right to freedom of assembly and the right to liberty.

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