Global Freedom of Expression

Shvydka v. Ukraine

Closed Mixed Outcome

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Non-verbal Expression
  • Date of Decision
    January 30, 2015
  • Outcome
    Monetary Damages / Fines, ECtHR, ECtHR - non Freedom of Expression and Information article violations, Article 10 Violation
  • Case Number
  • Region & Country
    Ukraine, Europe and Central Asia
  • Judicial Body
    European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)
  • Type of Law
    International/Regional Human Rights Law
  • Themes
    Political Expression

Content Attribution Policy

Global Freedom of Expression is an academic initiative and therefore, we encourage you to share and republish excerpts of our content so long as they are not used for commercial purposes and you respect the following policy:

  • Attribute Columbia Global Freedom of Expression as the source.
  • Link to the original URL of the specific case analysis, publication, update, blog or landing page of the down loadable content you are referencing.

Attribution, copyright, and license information for media used by Global Freedom of Expression is available on our Credits page.

Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

The plaintiff, a member of an opposition party in Ukraine, broke a ribbon with Ukrainian President Yanukovich’s name on it from a wreath during the Independence Day celebrations. She then ripped the ribbon in front of the gathered crowd. For these actions, the plaintiff was charged and found guilty of petty hooliganism and ordered to serve 10 days of administrative detention.

The plaintiff then brought the case to European Court of Human Rights, arguing that her rights to freedom of expression and privacy. The the Court ruled that although she committed petty hooliganism, her detention violated her free speech right.


On August 24, 2011, the plaintiff took part in the Ukrainian Independence Day celebrations. President Yanukovich also participated in the celebrations and laid a wreath at a monument of a Ukrainian pubic figure. The plaintiff approached the wreath and tore off a part of the ribbon that had President Yanukovich’s name on it. She did not damage the wreath in the process. She then proceeded to tear the ribbon in front of the gathered crowd. The reason for her actions was that she belonged to the opposition party and did not think President Yanukovich should have been president.

The next day, on August 25, 2011, the applicant was detained and brought to a police station where a report was drawn up explaining that her actions during the Independence celebration violated Article 173 of the Ukrainian Administrative code and amounted to petty hooliganism. The plaintiff was not allowed to consult her lawyer during this stage of the process.

On August 30, 2011, the Shevchenskiy District Court in Kyiv, at a hearing, found the plaintiff guilty of petty hooliganism and sentenced her to ten days of administrative detention. The court explained that its decision to apply detention was due to the plaintiff’s cynicism and unwillingness to admit guilt.

On September 21, 2011, the Kyiv City Court of Appeals upheld the verdict against the plaintiff. By that time, she already served her sentence.

The plaintiff thus brought the case to ECtHR, arguing that her actions are protected by Article 10 of ECHR. She also argued that the delay in her appeal, despite it being in line with the established administrative procedure, undermined her right to appeal because it took place already after she served her ten day sentence.

Decision Overview

The ECtHR reiterated that Article 10 protects expression that might shock and offend. It also reiterated that the Article protects both the ideas and the form of the expression.

The court the explained that allowance for limitations of freedom of expression exist, but must be construed strictly. In assessing the proportionality of the limitations, the nature and severity of penalties are factors that are weighed by the ECtHR.

The court thus ruled that plaintiff’s actions amounted to political expression and her administrative detention was an interference with her right to freedom of expression.

The court, however, disagreed with the plaintiff that he actions did not amount to petty hooliganism. The court agreed that the plaintiff’s actions might have been construed as offensive and aimed to insult or disturb those present. That said, the court found the ten day detention to be unjustifiable, especially since it seems to have been levied due to the plaintiff’s attitude and unwillingness to admit guilt.

The court thus ruled that the plaintiff’s freedom of expression was violated, and thus was Article 10.

Decision Direction

Quick Info

Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.

Mixed Outcome

The ruling upheld a form of political expression: tearing a ribbon with a name. However, it also ruled that such actions can be construed as petty hooliganism. It seems that the sole reason for the ruling for the plaintiff was that she spent ten days in administrate detention.

Global Perspective

Quick Info

Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.

Table of Authorities

Related International and/or regional laws

Case Significance

Quick Info

Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.

The decision establishes a binding or persuasive precedent within its jurisdiction.

Although the ruling allows for certain forms of expression to be called acts of petty hooliganism by national courts, the ECtHR is clear in that such actions should not be punishable by detention.

The decision was cited in:

Official Case Documents

Have comments?

Let us know if you notice errors or if the case analysis needs revision.

Send Feedback