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Human Rights Council Asks State Duma to Reconsider Bill on Rallies

Source: (info), 05/06/12

· Right of assembly

The chair of the Presidential Council on Human Rights and advisor to Vladimir Putin Mikhail Fedotov has sent a letter to the Speaker of the State Duma Sergei Naryshkin, in which he proposes that the new bill on rallies be sent back for renewed consideration at first reading.

In the letter Fedotov expresses the view that, due to its significance, the law on rallies requires extensive discussion. Moreover, the introduction of corrective labour as punishment for offences at rallies will require additional state expenditure (organisation of labour, compensation in the event of sentences being overturned, etc.), and so in accordance with Article 104, Section 3, of the Constitution of the Russian Federation the law cannot be passed without an official resolution by the Government of the Russian Federation. An official resolution has not yet been received.

Fedotov also draws attention to the fact that the increase in fines for offences at mass protests will result in different punishments for very similar offences (for example, in Article 12.30M of the Administrative Code of the Russian Federation, obstructing motor traffic is punishable by a fine of between 300 and 1500 roubles, while the proposed amendments stipulate a fine of between 30,000 and 50,000 roubles).

Furthermore, the increase in fines will erase the distinction between administrative and criminal liability as, according to current practice, administrative fines cannot exceed 5000 rubles.

The Presidential Council has also called for the clarification of the concept of "the violation of the established order for conducting a rally" (in order to avoid fines for violations of time limits for rally speakers) and "simultaneous mass arrival and/or movement of citizens in public places" (in order to avoid penalties for taking part in queues, for example at cash tills). writes that, according to human rights defenders, the latter concept is "completely artificial" and runs counter to the Constitution.

Human rights defenders are also calling for an end to protestors being detained when they have not violated public order, and for a solution be found to the problem of identifying members of law enforcement agencies.

Lastly, the Council on Human Rights is demanding that the concept of "unsanctioned events" be removed from the law, since the Federal Law on Assemblies, Rallies, Demonstrations, Processions and Pickets requires neither the official sanctioning nor official approval for rallies.

The Presidential Council on Human Rights has previously approached the chair of the State Duma Committee on Constitutional Legislation, Vladimir Pligin, with similar proposals. In addition to this, Fedotov has promised to ask Vladimir Putin to use his presidential veto to strike down the law.

The bill, which stipulates much harsher punishments for offences at mass protests, was passed by the State Duma in a first reading on 22 May. The second and third readings of the bill will take place on 5 June.