Court/Judicial body: European Court of Human Rights
Date: February 14, 2006 CRC
Provisions: Article 15: Freedom of Association
Other international provisions:European Convention on Human Rights, Articles 10 (Freedom of expression) and 11 (Freedom of assembly and association)
Domestic provisions: Article 32 of the Constitution of the Republic of Moldova Articles 15, 22 and 23 of the “Law on the Status of Deputies” Articles 5-9, 11-12, and 29 of the “Assembly Law” Article 174/1 of the “Code of Administrative Offences”
Background:In response to proposed law mandating the teaching of Russian to children aged seven and over, the opposition Christian Democratic People’s Party (“CDPP”) announced their intention to hold several “meetings with their voters” in the Square of the Great National Assembly, the seat of Moldovan government. Under Moldovan Law, gatherings classified as “meetings with voters” did not require prior authorization, while gatherings classified as “demonstrations” did. Ultimately, the Ministry of Justice determined that the CDPP’s gatherings were in fact “demonstrations”, and imposed a one-month ban on CDPP’s activities, claiming that the gatherings they instigated violated a number of International and Moldovan laws. Specifically, the Ministry of Justice alleged that the participation of minors in the demonstrations violated Article 15 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The ban was lifted 10 days before it was scheduled to expire, but the original decision to impose the ban was never expunged. The CDPP sued the Ministry of Justice, claiming that the temporary ban violated Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Issue and resolution: Right to peaceful assembly and association. The Court found that there had been a violation of the CDPP’s rights under Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the right to peaceful assembly and association, qualified only by laws necessary to protect public safety, health or morals. The Court found that since there was a violation under Article 11, there was no need to examine the issue of whether there was a violation under Article 10.
Court reasoning: The Court determined that the CDPP’s disagreement with the reigning Communist Party’s decision to require the teaching of Russian to schoolchildren, the CDPP had a protected right to protest, which the Government could only interfere with if they had “very compelling” reasons. The court found the reasons offered by the government to be insufficient. Specifically, the court rejected the Government’s claims that the presence of children at the rallies violated Article 15 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, since, primarily, the gatherings were public and anyone could attend.
Excerpt citing CRC and other relevant human rights “38. The relevant provisions of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child of 20 November 1989 read as follows: Article 15 ‘1.States Parties recognise the rights of the child to freedom of association and to freedom of peaceful assembly. 2. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of these rights other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.’ … 74. Where the presence of children is concerned, the Court notes that it has not been established by the domestic courts that they were there as a result of any action or policy of the applicant party. Since the gatherings were held in a public place, everyone, including children, could attend. Moreover, in the Court’s view, it was rather a matter of personal choice for the parents to decide whether to allow their children to attend those gatherings and it would appear to be contrary to the parents’ and children’s freedom of assembly to prevent them from attending such events, which it must be recalled, were to protest against Government policy on schooling. Accordingly, the Court is not satisfied that this reason was relevant and sufficient.”
Follow up: In a second case filed by the CDPP against Moldova with the European Court addressing similar concerns, the Court again found that there had been a violation of the CDPP’s right to association and peaceful assembly. The Case, CDDP v Molodva (2), is available at: http://cmiskp.echr.coe.int////tkp197/viewhbkm.asp?action=open&table=F69A27FD8FB86142BF01C1166DEA398649&key=79839&sessionId=63938914&skin=hudoc-en&attachment=true
CRIN comments: CRIN believes that this decision is consistent with the CRC. As recognised by the Court, Article 15 grants children the right to assemble peacefully and associate with others, which would certainly include attending gatherings in public places. In this particular case, a gathering to protest government policy on education would be especially relevant to children’s concerns, and not – as the Moldovan government argued – a reason to exclude them.
Citation: (2007) 45 E.H.R.R. 13
Link to full judgement: http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng?i=001-72346