Activist fined for a demonstration without prior notice. Unlawful interference with freedom of expression.
Art. 10 ECHR
1. The rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are fundamental in a democratic society. They are closely linked, since the protection of personal opinions, secured by Article 10 ECHR, is one of the objectives of freedom of peaceful assembly as enshrined in Article 11 ECHR.
2. A situation of unlawfulness, such as one arising under Romanian law from the organization of a demonstration without prior notification, does not in itself justify an interference with the right to freedom of assembly. The reaction of the domestic authorities is restricted by the proportionality and necessity requirements of Article 11 ECHR.
3. In the case of peaceful demonstrations, public authorities must show a certain “degree of tolerance” in order to ensure the freedom of assembly enshrined in Article 11 ECHR. The degree of tolerance must be defined in concrete terms by examining the circumstances of the case and, specifically, the extent of the “disruption of ordinary life” actually caused by the events.
(In the instant case, the applicant, Mr Bumbeș, a known activist, had handcuffed himself to a government car park barrier as a sign of protest against a mining project. The national authorities condemned his acts since they breached the public peace and order and the norms of social coexistence; moreover, he did not comply with the three-day prior notice requirement set out by Romanian law to stage a demonstration. The applicant argued that the sanction imposed on him had violated his rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Having decided to examine the case under Article 10 ECHR – interpreted in the light of Article 11 ECHR – the Court held that the restriction of the applicant's freedom of expression was not necessary in a democratic society. Indeed, the domestic courts had not properly considered the extent of the “disruption of ordinary life” caused by Mr Bumbeș’s actions. It, therefore, found a violation of Article 10 ECHR, read in light of Article 11 ECHR).
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