Freedom of Association and Assembly / Protests
Vajnai v. Hungary
Closed Expands Expression
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Brazil’s Superior Court of Justice (STJ) granted a group called the “Bus Rebellion” the relief sought in a Habeas Corpus allowing them the right to protest as previously planned. The “Bus Rebellion” movement had been denied a permit to protest an increase in fares for public transportation due to concerns that they could obstruct highway traffic into the city. The ruling ensured their right to peacefully enter and exit the city by foot in accordance with the right to freedom of movement as protected by the Brazilian Constitution. The Court reasoned that it was not the judiciary’s job to suppress the freedom of movement by the use of force against citizens who seek to exercise their constitutional right to protest.
This case was contributed by the Open Society Justice Initiative in collaboration with ARTICLE 19.
The “Bus Rebellion” movement is a group of college students and like-minded citizens that advocates against the increasing public transportation fares in Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil. The group was denied a protest permit by the First Judicial Court of Rio Grande do Norte. The First Judicial Court claimed that the protest, which involves walking instead of riding public transportation, would disrupt the normal and continuous flow of [federal highway] BR-101. The First Judicial Court stated that there was no way to tell which section or length or lane would be affected by the protest as of today or at any future date.
In response, the group filed a Collective Preventative Habeas Corpus against the Court. The Habeas Corpus sought to ensure their right to peacefully enter and exit the city by foot in accordance with the right to freedom of movement as protected by the Brazilian Constitution.
The 5th Region Court of Appeals, rejected the relief sought in the Habeas Corpus, stressing, however, that the denial did not give permission to suppress any popular protests. Peaceful protests are guaranteed by the Constitution if they do not involve obstruction of federal highways.
The “Bus Rebellion” movement filed another Habeas Corpus this time against the 5th Region Court of Appeals and seeking relief from the STJ.
On June 20, 2013, J. Herman Benjamin granted the relief sought in the Habeas Corpus allowing members of the “Bus Rebellion” the right to protest as previously planned.
In his decision, J. Herman Benjamin stated that it was not the judiciary’s job to suppress the freedom of movement by the use of force against citizens who seek to exercise their constitutional right to protest.
In addition, the Judge said that periculum in mora (“danger in delay”) justified the relief sought because of the imminence of possible repression and use of force against students.
Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.
The decision expands freedom of expression by allowing a peaceful protest to go ahead despite law enforcement attempts to suppress it.
The decision represents positive jurisprudence in an environment where public safety arguments, such as the preservation of traffic and the right to come and go, are constantly used by the State to limit the freedom of expression of various groups and social movements. In addition, the decision signals to the Brazilian government that freedom of movement and the right to protest are intertwined which is important in the light of continuous legislative attempts aimed at sanctioning pedestrians that close public streets to protest.
Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.
Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.
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