Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged Russia to quash the convictions and sentences against an 18-year-old activist who became this week the first person in the country punished under a 2018 law that prohibits adults from encouraging minors to take part in unauthorized protests.
In a statement on March 27, the New York-based human rights watchdog said that Ivan Luzin's prosecution and the fines imposed on him violate the rights to freedom of assembly and expression.
"The Russian authorities have found a new way to crack down on peaceful assembly, trying to prevent the next generation from forming democratic habits early in life," said Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at HRW.
Denber added that Luzin's sentence should be "quashed immediately, and these ridiculous provisions scrapped."
On March 15, a court in the Baltic port city of Kaliningrad fined Luzin, a supporter of opposition politician Aleksei Navalny and a member of the unregistered Libertarian Party, 20,000 Russian rubles ($310) for "organizing an unsanctioned protest."
And on March 25, the court ruled that Luzin violated a law signed by President Vladimir Putin in December by involving two 16-year-old girls in the demonstration and fined him 30,000 rubles ($465).
Both charges stem from a February demonstration in Kaliningrad in which he and two girls held posters expressing support for a pair of jailed activists who claim they were tortured in custody.
Under the December 2018 legislation, offenders can be punished by jail terms of up to 15 days, community service, and fines of up to 50,000 rubles ($775).
The law was proposed and passed amid apparent Kremlin concern over the participation of teenagers in several protest in recent years, including demonstrations organized by Navalny.
In February 2018, Putin called on the Interior Ministry to "vigorously put an end" to the activities of groups he said encouraged teenagers to participate in unsanctioned protests.
Denber said that Russia showed "little respect" for many of the rights covered by the European Convention on Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Russia is a party to.
"The Convention on the Rights of the Child specifically protects children's rights to freedom of expression and of association, and Russia should comply," she added.