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Europe rights court reviewing Russia freedom of assembly complaint

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] has begun considering a lawsuit filed by three Russian activists alleging their right to freedom of assembly has been violated, their lawyer said Tuesday. The court is reportedly deciding whether the case merits priority consideration [RIA Novosti]. The lawsuit stems from Russian law enforcement officials' suppression of protests [FH statement] being carried out by political and human rights activists. The three plaintiffs, chairwoman of the Moscow Helsinki human rights group Lyudmila Alexeyeva, Other Russia opposition party leader Eduard Limonov, and Left Front opposition movement member Konstantin Kosyakin, are seeking USD $127,000 in damages for alleged violations of Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights [materials], which envisages Right to Freedom of Assembly and Freedom of Association. Russian activists have been holding protests at the end of all of the months that have 31 days to call attention to Article 31 of the Russian Constitution [text], which provides for freedom of assembly. Their most recent protest [Moscow Times report], during which they were joined by members of the European Parliament, was held on Tuesday. During the protests, dozens of protesters were detained but later released [Echo Moskovsy report; in Russian].

The US State Department (DOS) [official website] criticized Russia [JURIST report] in its 2009 report on Human Rights Practices [text], writing that "[t]he government limited freedom of assembly, and police sometimes used violence to prevent groups from engaging in peaceful protest." In a January 31 protest, more than 100 protesters were arrested [JURIST report]. According to statistics [chart; PDF] from the ECHR, Russia has more complaints than any other country pending before the court. The ECHR has recently issued several high-profile decisions related to Russia, including a ruling [JURIST report] in March that Russia was responsible for disappearances in Chechnya.

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