Tuesday, August 30, 2016


New Russian Treason Bill Under Fire, 'Open To Abuse'

Russian police detain a gay-rights supporter during a protest rally in St. Petersburg in July. Critics fear the authorities will use the new law to jail any dissenters.
Russian police detain a gay-rights supporter during a protest rally in St. Petersburg in July. Critics fear the authorities will use the new law to jail any dissenters.
By Claire Bigg
Russian lawmakers are under fire for adopting a tough new bill that opponents say will allow the Kremlin to jail its critics on charges of high treason.

The draft law, passed overwhelmingly by the State Duma on October 23, expands the definition of high treason to include "granting financial, technical, consulting, or other help" to those seeking to harm Russia's security, including its "constitutional order, sovereignty, and territorial and state integrity."

Opponents of the bill say the new definition means virtually any Russian citizen who has had contact with a foreigner could face up to eight years in jail for betraying the Russian state.

"It's so wide that it could target absolutely legal, lawful activities of nongovernment organizations, civic activists, journalists, and even businesspeople," says human rights lawyer Pavel Chikov, the president of Agora, a rights association that provides legal assistance to civic activists. "It outlaws any exchange of information with international organizations and representatives of foreign governments."

Rights activists warn that the bill -- which needs to be approved by the upper chamber of parliament and signed by President Vladimir Putin to become law -- could be used to prosecute anyone who runs afoul of the Kremlin.

Russia's rights ombudsman, Vladimir Lukin, said such a broad definition of high treason would breach both Russia's constitution and international law.

Chikov says it would also give the Federal Security Service (FSB), the bill's author, more leeway to put dissidents on trial.

"In the past, only communications used for hostile purposes against the Russian Federation were considered high treason. But this was difficult for them to prove," the lawyer says. "Now, to simplify their task, the term 'threat to security' is being introduced to replace the term "hostility.' 'Threat to security' is a lot easier to use and is also more subjective."

'A Return To The 1930s'

The draft law is widely seen as part of a recent Kremlin crackdown that has seen the jailing of political opponents and the adoption of restrictive new legislation, including laws dramatically hiking fines for protesters and forcing foreign-funded nongovernmental organizations to register as "foreign agents."

In a memorandum attached to the treason bill, the FSB refers to the "active use by foreign secret services" of foreign governmental and nongovernmental organizations to harm Russia's security.

Rights groups say the bill harks back to Soviet-era repressions. "This law is monstrous and takes us back to Soviet times," says veteran Russian rights campaigner Lev Ponomaryov. "All those who say that Russia was returning to the 1930s have now been proven right."

The draft law has also drawn condemnation abroad, with Human Rights Watch denouncing it as a scheme aimed at "paralyzing" critics or political rivals.

In a statement issued on October 24, the New York-based group said the treason bill "directly threatens the exercise of protected fundamental rights" and that its broad definition of treason was "open to abuse."

It urged Putin not to sign the law and called on the Council of Europe to examine its compatibility with the European Convention on Human Rights.

"It's imperative for Russia's international partners to take a sober look at what is happening in Russia today," said Human Rights Watch's Europe director, Hugh Williamson, "and not to stand by silently as Russia's civil society is dismantled."

With additional reporting by RFE/RL's Russian Service

Claire Bigg

Claire Bigg covers Russia, Ukraine, and the post-Soviet world, with a focus on human rights, civil society, and social issues. Send story tips to BiggC@rferl.org​


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Comment Sorting
by: Karen Sherry Brackett from: Johnson City, Tennessee
October 24, 2012 16:40
In my opinion, in a world where Islam uses every deception they can to shackle the world to Sharia Law any legal measure available to thwart their advances is a necessity. The Muslims have declared war on the world and they named Russia as their number one enemy country this month. So, bad as what Putin has done is Russia is still better off than America is as long as Obama is in our White House.
In Response

by: Anonymous
October 24, 2012 20:44
your take on this is fascinatingly deranged. what does this have to do with islam?
In Response

by: William from: Aragon
October 26, 2012 05:25
It would appear that our commenter frequents certain Christian Taliban websites. There appears to exist a percentage of the US population that believes (1) there is something called "The Moslem World" that (2) has "declared war on the world", although that declaration cannot be found anywhere. This belief is simply one step beyond fighting the "Injuns" of days gone by: praise the Lord and pass the ammuntion.

by: Greed
October 24, 2012 16:48
I guess Putin forgot that the USSR style economy doesn't work.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
October 25, 2012 08:04
:-)) Talking about economy, Putin has probably been following how well such EU and NATO economies as Greece, Spain, Portugal or Italy are performing and came to the conclusion that the USSR style economy used to work much better...

by: dan from: California
October 24, 2012 17:09
New face of Communism in Putin version

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
October 25, 2012 03:58
If treason to include "finantial, technical, consulting or other help",
To those seeking harm to "constitutional order, soverenty,
And territorial and state integrity", it is already swept
Any individual and national right and dignity.

Why one talks here about broder interprete?
It is already broad enough to enslave nations
From Caucasus and Georgia land, annexed,
East Europe through Afghanistan and Tatars.

Individual rigts, freedom of speech, assembly
And protest against Imperial crimes of Russia
Also included - also art and science creativety,
Literary works and other acheivment's visability
Is for taking by plagiarist bists of Putin's Prussia.

New law, even without broadening it is Manifesto,
Of Prussia-Varanga Czar, arresting for protesting,
Sending assassins all over the World - even USA.
For my freedom of speach, preventing aggressing,
They killed my mother on my and US bursdays day.

My mother was born in Argentina, I was denied too,
Be Citizen of USSR as non-Russians since - 1947.
But Russian empire don't care - they killing through,
Symbolicly, from "Litvinenko Polonium" through 9/11.

And now at the top of it - they create agency of Pride,
Killing and gett medals - for any bloody Russian killer,
More than they did before. Assassins of Afghan, prize!
Assassin of Litvinenko, hail! Prize killers of my mother,
Alzimer and labeling her Russians - Putin and Obama.

by: William from: Aragon
October 26, 2012 04:59
I see - Russia now has a Patriot Act.
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
October 31, 2012 17:51
Read new decision of Federal gang - now it is up to Putin.
Russian Empire is back, adding to Peter Bagrationi's pushkas
Stalin's termo-nuclear arsenals and all the rest they usurping,
Adding to bestiality of Varaga-Prussaka and Lanin "yushkas"
Nazi Germany and whole history experience of "suchkas",
Arrogantly, as Russians in US government snooping,
Framing innocent, like my mother, for my writings,
And murdering them by Putin-Obama dancing.
In Response

by: William from: Aragon
October 31, 2012 22:36
Yes Konstantin, they have not learned from the past and will continue to make past mistakes. If there was ever a people who might try walking a different path, it is the Russians - let us hope.

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