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Human rights defenders: “Putin’s Proposal Threatens the Future of Russia”

Source: HRO.org (info), 28/01/12

· Human rights defenders  · Moscow city & Moscow region

Statement by a group of Russian human rights defenders: “...an individual who is campaigning to become president of the Russian Federation is suggesting that all the achievements of past years be crossed out, that the judgments of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation be ignored, together with the promises made to the Council of Europe, and that we return to the Soviet institution of obligatory residence registration..." 

On January 23rd Nezavisimaya gazeta published a second pre-election article by Vladimir Putin, candidate for the post of president of the Russian Federation.

As a result of the author’s evident wish to please a great number of people — if not everyone — the article is filled with contradictory statements and various quotes – used inaccurately and tendentiously – taken from historians, philosophers, and politicians. It would therefore be senseless to distinguish between any of the ideas with which one could agree, since others that contradict them are side by side in the same text.

What is frightening is something else: among the positive wishes for the development of culture, the strengthening of the judicial system, and the building of effective law enforcement agencies, the only practical proposal is the introduction of criminal liability for breaching regulations on migration and the rules for residence registration. With this goal in mind Vladimir Putin suggests conducting a review of the Administrative and Criminal Codes. “Naturally,” Mr. Putin adds, in a twist typical of this text as a whole, “without infringing upon the constitutional rights of citizens in choosing a place of residence.”

How it is possible to introduce criminal liability for the realization of a basic human right, without infringing upon it, the reader is not told.

It may not be apparent to Mr. Putin that one of the first decisions of the Constitutional Court, established in 1991 still under the Soviet regime, was the decision that obligatory residence registration was unconstitutional. A new law on the Constitutional Court was adopted in 1994, but in 1993 the system of obligatory registration had already been changed by law to a system of ‘notification’. In 1995, on becoming a member of the Council of Europe, Russia took on the obligation to abolish altogether the institution of obligatory residence registration, which until then at the level of secondary legislation had done little more than change the name of the Soviet system of obligatory registration [known as the ‘propiska’]. The numerous judgments of the Constitutional Court played a major role in the advancement of this demand, since their intention was to move away as far as possible from the institution of the obligatory registration, introducing registration as a form of notification only. Slowly, Russia began leaving behind the serfdom of the ‘propiska’, moving in a more reasonable direction.

But now an individual who is campaigning to become president of the Russian Federation is suggesting that all the achievements of past years be crossed out, that the judgments of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation be ignored, together with the promises made to the Council of Europe, and that we return to the Soviet institution of obligatory residence registration.

What does residence registration have to do with maintaining public order? Do we want police officers at every corner to check in Moscow the registration of every brunette? Or, in Chechnya, the registration of every blond person? Surely the police would be better employed maintaining order and catching gangsters.

Is it really not clear to Mr. Putin that the restriction of freedom of movement of citizens in their own country opens up unlimited opportunities for the arbitrary actions of bureaucrats? The further growth of corruption, illegal requisitions and extortion are inevitable consequences of Putin's proposal. Such a restriction of the rights of Russian citizens will once and for all annul any hope that our country can change from being a mere “supplier of raw materials” into a modern, dynamically developing state.

Most likely, candidate Putin understands this all very well. However, being the spokesman for the interests of the bureaucracy, he sees the future Russia as a semi-feudal state in which the population attached to its territories lives in a state of dependence on the bureaucratic “barons” and the representatives of the federal authorities. But does he understand that the people will not be reconciled to such a policy? Such a policy will inexorably lead to greater social tension, which will inevitably end in an explosion of discontent.

Valery Borshchev, Social Partnership Foundation, member of Moscow Helsinki Group
Lev Ponomarev, Movement For Human Rights
Ludmila Alekseeva, chair, Moscow Helsinki Group
Oleg Orlov, chair of the board, Memorial Human Rights Centre
Svetlana Gannushkina, Civic Assistance Committee
Yuri Vdovin, Citizens’ Watch, member of the Human Rights Council of St. Petersburg
Yuri Schmidt, lawyer, member of the Human Rights Council of St. Petersburg


January 30, 2012
ĉ
Rights in Russia,
1 Feb 2012, 01:56
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