In October 2010, Oleksiy Vyerentsov was arrested and sentenced to three days administrative detention. His crime: organising a peaceful demonstration in protest against corruption in the Ukrainian prosecution service. Left with inadequate time to prepare his defence, and deprived of the opportunity to consult with a lawyer, Oleksiy decided to lodge a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights.
In its judgment, the Court found several violations of the European Convention including the right to peaceful assembly and the right to a fair trial. The Court also noted that the law on which Oleksiy’s prosecution was based was insufficiently precise, leaving other Ukrainian nationals unable to predict the consequences of their actions.
Despite positive developments, legislative reforms making their way through the Ukrainian parliament have yet to be passed into law . In the absence of a clear and coherent legal framework, the prospect of citizens like Oleksiy for being punished for exercising their democratic freedoms remains very real.
Although the Ukrainian constitution allows for freedom of assembly, Soviet-Era laws grant domestic authorities wide discretion to grant or refuse permission for peaceful demonstrations. Ukraine’s court system suffers from several flaws including corruption, vulnerability to political pressure, a lack of independence and lengthy court proceedings.
Useful links to the Vyerentsov v Ukraine case (Application No 20372/11):
Final judgment by the European Court of Human Rights (as of 11/7/2013)
Case details, incl. NGO submissions by the Ukranian Helsinki Human Rights Union (05/2015) and the Ukrainian Centre for Independent Political Reseach (11/2016)