MOSCOW, July 22 (RAPSI) – The Russia’s Constitutional Court has permitted protesters to duct-tape their mouths, as well as make drawings and place stickers on their faces saying such actions are an expression of opinion on the part of protesters having, nevertheless, reminded that the use of masks, balaclavas, or objects designated to disguise faces violates the law and incurs administrative liability.

The Constitutional Court examined the provisions of the law on meetings following a complaint lodged by some students, who duct-taped their mouths as participants of “The Day of Silence” event aimed to fight discrimination. Police officers found this way of civil self-expression to be at variance with the law as a form of disguise bringing administrative action against the participants.

The students asked the Constitutional Court to clarify if symbols used for expression of opinion could be defined as disguise and to check the lawfulness of a regulation requiring mandatory notification of authorities about forthcoming actions even only five persons were going to participate.

The Court have reminded that the ban on disguising faces of participants in mass events was introduced not only in Russia, but also in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Norway, Finland, France, Switzerland, Sweden, and a number of other countries on security grounds.

However, the Court called for applying the principle of reasonableness in this matter reminding that participants could use kerchiefs due to weather conditions, or bandages, flu masks, and respirators in cases of medical necessity. The Court also pointed out that protesters had right to use their faces as means of visual outreach alongside such permitted means as placards, billboards and other visuals. 

The Constitutional Court called the police and courts for paying attention to the motivations and aims behind such actions and weigh if drawings or objects put on participants’ faces resulted in a violation of security.

In its decision, the Court also pointed out that the right of peaceful assembly was secured by the Constitution and was a basic and inherent component of the personal legal status in the Russian Federation. The Court said that this Constitutional provision envisaged also the right to express protest against certain actions and decisions of state and municipal authorities, or their policies at large. The Court also pointed out that the authorities should not unreasonably restrict the right of peaceful assembly, although such right might be curtailed to protect the constitutional framework, rights and legitimate interests of other persons and to ensure defense and security of the state.

According to the Court, the right of peaceful assembly guaranteed by the Constitution is not absolute and could be curtailed by federal laws, whereas the obligation to notify the authorities about forthcoming events and get their consent was not at variance with the Constitution.