5. Sanctions for organizers or participants are restrictions and must thus strictly comply with the three-prong test
5.1. Sanctions must fully comply with the three-prong test
The three-prong test (see Assembly Section 4.4) does not only apply to restrictions placed on an assembly before or during the event, but also to restrictions – such as sanctions – imposed afterwards.
In Praded v. Belarus, for example, the author of the communication had been given an administrative fine in connection with an unauthorised protest at the Iranian embassy. The HRC held that the proportionality of that fine needed to be demonstrated:
The starting point is that the imposition of any sanction – however minor – amounts to a restriction of the right and thus requires a clear justification. The ECtHR has repeatedly held that even sanctions at the lower end of the scale should not be imposed on participants in an assembly that has not been forbidden unless the defendant has personally committed a “reprehensible act”:
A number of international courts and mechanisms have made it clear that the application of criminal or administrative sanctions to organizers of or participants in peaceful assemblies warrants particular scrutiny; in principle there should be no threat of sanctions for participation in assemblies. This is true all the more of the imposition of prison sentences.
The ECtHR has noted that in some legal systems, administrative law is used to punish offences that are criminal in nature. Where sanctions imposed are punitive and deterrent in nature, and in particular where individuals are deprived of their liberty, even briefly, the Court classifies these measures as “criminal”, even if they are considered administrative under national law. See, for example, Kasparov and Others v. Russia, ECtHR, Judgment of 3 October 2013, paras. 41-45.
The IACHR has published an extensive report on the “Criminalization of the Work of Human Rights Defenders” in which it expresses its concern about the overuse of criminal law in a number of contexts, including in response to protest. In particular, it voices its