Remember the Date: 6 May 2012 - the demonstration on Moscow's Bolotnaya Square against election abuses

posted 6 May 2016, 00:25 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 6 May 2016, 00:39 ]
On 6 May 2012, in one of the largest demonstrations in Russia since the 1990s, thousands of people took part in a peaceful protest on Bolotnaya Square against alleged election abuses on the day before the inauguration of Vladimir Putin for a third term in office on 7 May 2012. On 6 May police dispersed the demonstration, Amnesty International has said, using excessive and unlawful force. Hundreds of people were arrested. The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation launched an investigation into alleged riot (Article 212 of the Russian Criminal code) and alleged violence against police (Article 318 of the Russian Criminal code). Dozens of people have since been prosecuted and jailed in what have been widely recognized as a politically motivated trials. As Wikipedia notes, then Russian Human Rights Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin repeatedly stated that 'there were no riots on Bolotnaya Square' and that 'innocent people were subjected to criminal sanctions.' The European Court of Human Rights has ruled in a number of cases that in the Bolotnaya Square case Russia has violated European Convention on Human Rights. The European Human Rights Advocacy Centre commented in January 2016 following the European Court's ruling in the case of Frumkin v Russia: 'In a ground-breaking and strongly worded judgment, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Russian authorities had failed in their obligations to protect freedom of assembly by not taking adequate measures to ensure that the Bolotnaya Square protest of 6 May 2012 was conducted peacefully. Specifically, the Court found that, by failing to communicate with the leaders of the rally, the authorities were unable to prevent disorder and guarantee the safety of all citizens involved.' Amnesty International has recognized those detained and convicted in the case as prisoners of conscience.

On 21 February 2014, when eight defendants were found guilty, Amnesty International condemned what it called a 'show trial' and called the guilty verdict against defendants 'a hideous injustice.' John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International, said: 'What happened on Bolotnaya Square on 6 May 2012 was not the quelling of a riot, but the crushing of a protest. The Bolotnaya trial has not exposed orchestrated violence, but rather a criminal justice system that is entirely malleable to the dictates of its political masters. The defendants in this trial were confronted by abusive use of force by police. Some of them sought to prevent violence, others to protect themselves. A few were just caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. All are victims of a politically motivated show trial. Contrary to the official line, there was not a mass riot. There was violence, but most of it was at the hands of the police. To this day, however, not a single police officer has been brought to justice for these abuses.' 

Photo: EHRAC 

'Russia: Guilty verdict in Bolotnaya case - injustice at its most obvious,' Amnesty International, 21 February 2014
'Russian authorities failed to ensure the right to protest during the 6 May 2012 Bolotnaya Square demonstration,' EHRAC, 5 January 2016
'Bolotnaya Square Case,' Website
'Bolotnaya Square case,' Wikipedia