New Assemblies Act – practical guide by HFHR
The new Assemblies Act came into force in mid-October 2015. The new regulations have brought numerous changes to the existing laws. HFHR has developed a short step-by-step guide to the rights and duties of the organisers and participants of public assemblies.
The amendments to the regulations were forced as a result of the Constitutional Tribunal’s judgement and ECtHR guidance. The basic premise was to ensure constitutional freedom of assembly and to guarantee safety of the assembly participants.
Pursuant to the act, an assembly is a group of people who assembled at an open space that is accessible to everyone for the purpose of common deliberations or to express a joint statement over a public matter. There is no longer a minimum limit on the number of people required to consider a group of people as an assembly. In the past, at least 15 people were needed.
The organisers will need to give prior notice of an assembly during a period of 30 to 6 days before the intended day of the event; such notice needs to be given in writing, by fax or e-mail. Under the law, organisers of assemblies will be able to appeal to a regional court against decisions issued by local authorities that prohibit assemblies. Appeals are to be reviewed according to a procedure that is similar to the procedure for handling violations of election laws, i.e. without undue delay but not later than within 24 hours as of the appeal’s filing. The previous regulations did not provide any effective procedure for appealing against decisions prohibiting assemblies.
The organiser and the chairperson will be responsible for the course of the assembly. The chairperson has the duty to dissolve the assembly if the participants do not follow the orders or if they violate the provisions of the act or criminal regulations. An assembly may be dissolved by a representative of the local authorities if the chairperson fails to do so or if there is any threat to life, health or property, or violation of the provisions of the act or criminal regulations. As a rule, a representative of the local government will be designated for assemblies if there is a threat that the public order will be disturbed.
A simplified notification procedure may be followed in the case of assemblies that do not cause any traffic disruption.
A spontaneous assembly is a novelty permitted under the act. Pursuant to the regulations, a spontaneous assembly may be organised in relation to a sudden, unforeseeable event relating to the public sphere which, if held at a later date, would be pointless and insignificant from the perspective of public debate. No notice will need to be given of such assemblies.