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"Stop Censorship" movement prevented from holding rally

(IMI/IFEX) - 7 June 2011 - The District Administrative Court banned a rally of the "Stop Censorship" movement, which had been scheduled for 6 June 2011, near the President's official residence, Mezhyhirya.

According to the "Ukrainska Pravda" newspaper, the court ruled in favour of a claim submitted by the head of the Novi Petrivci village council, Rodion Starenkyi.

"The court decreed in favour of the claim by deciding to restrict the right of the demonstrators to hold a peaceful meeting near the gates of the Presidential residence," judge Hanna Panova said, in announcing the verdict. The judge justified her decision by noting that "the principle of advance notification was violated" when the application was submitted. Moreover, according to Panova "there was a real danger of public disturbance [resulting from the protest] and the court is tasked with trying to prevent unrest."

Starenkyi said in an interview that he welcomed the judge's decision. "This is not a suitable place for the rally. This is a private area, and people are going to work," the village councillor said.

The court's decision is based on the fact that the application for the rally near Mezhyhirya was not submitted within a "reasonable amount of time" (from the moment of the application submission to the date of the rally). The application was submitted at about noon on 3 June, and the rally was planned for the morning of 6 June. The Head of Novi Petrivci village council, where the residence of the President is situated, argued that the executive committee of the village council would not have enough time to organise the necessary measures for maintaining security and order during the rally. However, IMI notes, neither the council's claim nor the court's decision specified the type of measures that were needed or why they could not be set in place.

A small number of individuals (less than 30) would likely have participated in the rally and there was no need to close off traffic. Therefore, it is quite reasonable to expect that the village council's executive committee could have implemented the necessary measures.

Moreover, the Administrative Court justified its decision by highlighting the need to protect the private life of the President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, as the rally was to be held outside of working hours. IMI notes that the President himself invited journalists to his residence a year ago (even though he still has not fulfilled this promise). Neither the village council's claim, nor the court verdict, suggest that the President was expected to be in Mezhyhirya at the time of the rally.

"The trial started on Saturday at 3 pm and lasted till 8 pm, so it was impossible to submit an appeal (and for it be considered). The decision of the first instance court is executed immediately in such cases, according to Art. 182 of the Administrative Code," Roman Golovenko, IMI's lawyer, explained.

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