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Odessa Court refuses to satisfy City Council regarding mass events

April 27, 2016

It is not often – or certainly not often enough – that the courts of Odessa fail to satisfy the requests/petitions of City Hall.

Indeed much of the local constituency would perceive the courts of Odessa as being in cahoots with, or at the very least tacitly approving (by way of inaction) many acts of City Hall that would appear to breach the of City Ordnance to which it is meant to comply.

As stated in yesterday‘s entry. there is the possibility of some rather tense moments in Odessa over the coming weeks – the 2nd anniversary of the 2nd May tragedy, the 9th May Victory day events, and the first anniversary of Governor Saakashvili’s appointment.

All of these dates have the potential for mass gatherings and perhaps spontaneous, or agent provocateur instigated, or pre-planned violence, when considering the purely politically and artificially created atmosphere of complete intolerance among the local political class in recent weeks.

The “old guard” is clearly pushing back – Messrs Kivalov and Skoryk are pushing their agenda.  Anton Kisse in the south-west of the Oblast is making “Bessarabian” noises (again).  Mayor Trukhanov is under the Panama Papers cosh, Governor Saakashvili will face anniversary questions of accomplishments (or not), and the persistent mention of both Ihor Kolomoisky and Alexander Angert continues in the local political and underworld circles with regard to continued disservices to the well-being of the city (and region).  This notwithstanding continuing societal discontent over issues such as the perceived lack of rule of law and failure to tackle corruption within the local and national elite.

Considering these dates are upon the immediate horizon, City Hall petitioned the courts of Odessa to ban mass events from 1st – 10th May at Kulikovo Field.

Kulikovo Field, adjacent to the city centre railway station, has traditionally been the location for 9th May Victory Day military parades, and is also the location of Union House, the scene of several shootings and the fire that claimed so many lives in 2014.

City Hall claimed that allowing mass gatherings would “draw the attention of a large number of radical parties with an opposing civil position.”

Perhaps so.  Certainly a legitimate concern for those governing the city, and clearly a symbolic and tragic location.  It is to be duly noted that this was the only location that City Hall sought to ban mass gatherings between the dates identified.

The petition prima facie sought to prevent the opportunity for large scale disorder by preemptively banning large organised gatherings at Kulikovo Field, vis a vis the right of society to freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, and freedom of speech.

Such decisions are never particularly easy for any authority, albeit in a democracy the default position of a court should lean toward the fundamental rights of the constituency.  The case to curtail such rights must necessarily have a particularly high threshold.  Existing human rights outweighing the potential for human wrongs and all that.

(Reader’s will duly note that democracy and rule of law, and indeed the independence of the courts in Ukraine, can be perceived as somewhat subjective to be charitable.)

denied

The outcome was that the court in Odessa refused to satisfy the City Hall petition to ban mass events at Kulikovo Field.  The court stated that the City Hall arguments were simply not convincing as only one NGO had notified City Hall of its intention to carry out activities on Kulikovo Field during the period 1st – 10th May.

The NGO that notified City Hall of its intentions at Kulikovo Field was AutoMaidan Odessa, who planned to carry out “military/patriotic education of the youth” and familiarising “the youth” with MMGs (weaponry operation, size, weights etc) including their use and the use of pyrotechnics.

Quite rightly, the court banned the use of MMGs and pyrotechnics during the “military/patriotic education of the youth“, but not the NGO from holding its activities on Kulikovo Field.  It now falls to the police to insure that ban is robustly and uncompromisingly enforced.  (The lack of enforced court rulings across Ukraine is a significant problem – if a case gets to court at all.)

This raises the question of whether those that uphold the rule of law feel able to adequately provide for the safety of the local constituency – or not – when considering the risk of significant public disorder.  A reader may question what input, if any, the police and/or the SBU had in this City Hall petition to the court, and/or what evidence these institutions gave at the court hearing – if any.

All of that said, the vast majority of the local constituency will not be engaging in any AutoMaidan Odessa activities at Kulikovo Field, no differently from the vast majority of the local constituency not partaking in the tragic events of 2nd May 2014.  Indeed the vast majority of the local constituency have not attended any of the numerous 9th May military victory parades at Kulikovo Field of years past either.

It is therefore perhaps not the only the local constituency that City Hall fears when it states Kulikovo Field will “draw the attention of a large number of radical parties with an opposing civil position”.  Indeed, few would be surprised if “concerned citizens” (of various persuasions) external of Odessa were to arrive to “show their support” (to whomever).

Such non-local actors may decide it entirely unnecessary to inform City Hall of their attendance at Kulikova Field of course.  Ergo it may be the case that other organisations may be present.

What, if any, input from the SBU and/or police was given to the court with regard to intelligence is unknown.  The court can only rule upon the evidence and arguments presented.

If 2015 was an indication of what is ahead on these sensitive dates in 2016, then the court decision will certainly prove to be the right one.  That said, 2015 did not see the local political class so openly manipulating events and forcefully pushing their own personal agendas in such a reckless manner – the tragic events of 2014 however, did.

A few days of politically soothing rhetoric, a (perhaps unfortunately temporary) changing of modus operandi for some, and unambiguous stern words behind the curtain would seem in order to aid the court in its decision ultimately proving to be justified by events (or lack thereof) in the weeks ahead, rather than arguments presented upon which after due deliberation, it has now ruled.

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