Cracow Outraged rally dissolved: the Foundation calls the Ministry for explanations
In May 2012 the authorities in Cracow dissolved the rally of the local limb of the Outraged movement. In a statement issued to the Minister of Administration and Digitisation Michał Boni, the HFHR referred to doubts of a legal nature and the unclear procedural circumstances surrounding the premature dissolution of the gathering. The Foundation called for reviewing the problem and taking action to avoid similar incidents in future.
The key objections raised by the HFHR concern the legal grounds for dissolving a legally registered rally and the inaction of the administrative authorities in hearing appeals against the dissolution decision.
On 23 May 2012, the gathering’s organiser received a letter from the Cracow Municipal Office informing him that the rally had been automatically dissolved because the number of the participants had fallen below the legal minimum of 15. The organiser appealed against this decision but his appeal was not considered. Two days later, representatives of the Municipal Office gave the protesters a verbal order to leave the rally area, again citing the automatic dissolution of the rally. On 28 May, the attorney for the gathering participants, Mr Krzysztof Bielański, appealed against this order. In the letter dated 29 May 2012, the Małopolskie Province Governor notified the protesters that their letters had not been treated as appeals because of the absence of an original administrative decision, and, as such, they would not be further examined. The appellants also have yet to receive a response to their complaint for the inaction of the Governor, which was submitted to the Minister of Administration and Digitisation in July 2012.
In its statement, the HFHR emphasised that the freedom to hold and participate in assemblies is one of the crucial values in a democratic state ruled by law. Citizens who exercise their right to organise and take part in a public gathering which was held legally and peacefully have the right to expect that authorities will not only tolerate the gathering but also take action to protect it. It must be noted that apart from prescribing a detailed appellate procedure, the regulations laid down in the Assemblies Act contain a list of legal grounds for dissolving a demonstration.
In consequence of the above, the HFHR expressed its doubts regarding the authorities’ refusal to grant the Assemblies Act protection for a minor gathering of less than 15 people. The Foundation also challenged the practice of citing too low number of participants as a justification of dissolving a legal assembly.
The Helsinki Foundation called on Minister Boni to respond to the noticeable practice of local authorities issuing official letters of an unclear legal status that results in limiting the availability of appellate remedies which can be used to challenge decisions curbing the freedom of assembly.