8 October 2013
Source: HRO.org (info)
statement by State Duma deputy Dmitry Gudkov appeared in the media, in which he was quoted as saying that a bill has been passed in its first reading allowing the police without a court decision to fine NGOS up to 500,000 roubles (£10,000).
But actually it is not really like that. According to Article 23.1 of the Administrative Code of the Russian Federation only judges can bring a case under Article 19.34 of the Administrative Code. Therefore, under this Article, only a court can issue a fine of half a million roubles (or of any other amount).
However, the bill passed in its first reading is still very bad for NGOS for two reasons:
1) The police, together with the Ministry of Justice, currently have the right to draw up a protocol concerning administrative violations under under the controversial Article 19.34 of the Administrative Code. Why is it controversial? Because even Justice Minister Aleksandr Konovalov, who has a PhD in law, recognises the poor quality of the law, for violations of which NGOS are being fined, and will continue to be fined. For example, on 16 January 2013, speaking in the State Duma, he noted the vagueness of the definition of "political activity": "As far as the definition of political activity is concerned, I think there will be controversy and debate all the way up to the Constitutional Court."
And this is not to mention the police officer, without any legal training, who will be empowered to draw up such protocols? How will he decide whether the activities of the NGO are violations of the law? Responding to the bill, the Ministry of Justice referred to the danger of corruption that could result from "breadth of discretionary powers which is evidenced in the presence of overlapping powers among officials from federal and local authorities."
2) And most interesting of all, violations by “foreign agents” are considered to be in the same category as hooliganism. In drawing up the protocol of a violation, the police officer will be entitled to impose on the director or employee of an NGO whom they consider to be an offender all necessary measures such as removal to the police station, administrative detention, personal search, and a search of possessions. And this will make things seriously worse.
Lawyer, legal advisor to the EKOSOTSIS Foundation
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