Local EU Statement on freedom of assembly in the Russian Federation delivered during the 1352nd Meeting of the Committee of Ministers (4 September 2019):
In July and August, peaceful demonstrations took place in Moscow on several successive weekends, calling for free and democratic local elections in the city on 8 September 2019.
The European Union shares the concerns of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights about the large number of arrests during the rallies, many of them described as "unfounded" by human rights defenders, and about the reported excessive use of force by law enforcement officers against peaceful protesters and journalists.
These actions by law enforcement agencies follow the worrying series of arrests, detentions and police raids against opposition politicians carried out earlier on, and seriously undermine the fundamental freedoms of expression, association and assembly. These fundamental rights are enshrined in the Russian constitution and must be protected. We call for the release of the remaining detainees from the demonstrations, and an end to the practice of preventive detention of opposition activists.
For elections to represent a genuinely democratic process, it is essential to create the conditions for a level playing field and an inclusive political environment. As the exclusion of several opposition politicians by the Central Electoral Commission from taking part in the elections shows, this is clearly not the case at present.The European Union calls upon the authorities of the Russian Federation to respect Russia’s Council of Europe and OSCE commitments and other international obligations when conducting the upcoming local elections.
The European Union also encourages the Russian Federation to take measures, in line with the Human Rights Commissioner's recommendations, to ensure that human rights are respected in the context of policing assemblies.