18 April 2016
Original source: Meduza
* * *Head of the Investigative Committee, Aleksandr Bastrykin,has published an article in the magazine Kommersant-Vlast which justifies a tightening of legislation and also emphasises that “Russia’s problems are connected to the hybrid war”.
This is a programmatic statement, and the Investigative Committee is clearly very keen that it attract attention: usually articles by Bastrykin are published in the Rossiiskaya gazeta, and not in Vlast. Meduza picked out four themes from the article which seemed to them strangest of all, and explained just what about them raised questions.
The main idea behind Aleksandr Bastrykin's article is as follows: all the most important events of the past decades – including the shift in oil prices, the unrest in the Middle East, the rise of new states following the demise of the USSR, the decisions of international courts, and the activity of NGOs are all a result of US aggression against Russia. The head of the Investigative Committee does not suggest any other explanations for what happens in the world.
“The number of extremists in Russia has increased”
Quote: In 2015 in the Russian Federation a negative tendency in the growth of extremist crime and terrorism. 1329 crimes of an extremist nature were registered, that is 28.5% higher than in 2014 (1034). A growth in the number of crimes of this type was registered in 56 regions of the Russian Federation.
What’s odd about this? The number of registered crimes is not the best indicator for gauging the level of extremism in Russia.
According to experts and human rights activists, there are a large number of abuses linked to cases brought under the articles regarding “public incitement of extremist activities” and “incitement of hatred or enmity”.
A report by the Sova Centre for 2015 sets out a whole selection of dubious incidents. “Anti-extremist” legislation is often used to pressurise political opponents.
A few incidents look absurd, for example, criminal cases brought over a repost or even a like on social media. We do not know whether the level of extremism has really grown in the country, but the law enforcement agencies have certainly started using these articles of the Criminal Code more often.
Quote: The creation of a strategy for the political ideology of the state is exceptionally important. Its fundamental element could be a national idea, which effectively would bring together the single multiethnic people of Russia .
[…] The proposed strategy should define the boundaries of censorship in Russia of the global Internet, since this problem nowadays generates heated debates as a result of the active work of those defending the right to receive and disseminate information.
What's odd about this? The head of the Investigative Committee is in fact suggesting that the Russian Constitution be revised. The Constitution directly lays down that censorship is inadmissible (Article 29) and bans the introduction of a state ideology (Article 13).
It is impossible to change these articles – it is only possible if a new constitution is adopted.
Punishment for denial of the referendum results on Crimea etc.
Quote: The establishment of criminal liability for denial or falsification of historical events with particular meaning for the state and society is a common practice. For example, in many countries in the world, including Russia, there is a criminal penalty for the propaganda of fascism. […] Taking this into account, it is necessary to update the federal law “On combating extremist activity” the notion of extremist activity (extremism) as the denial of the results of a national referendum (judging by the context, this refers exclusively to the entry of Crimea into the Russian state – Meduza).
What’s odd about this? It is a very vague statement. It’s not very clear what Bastrykin wants to prohibit. For example, will there be criminal liablity for stating the fact that a majority of countries of the world have not recognised the results of the referendum?
Is it possible to make mention of the UN resolution which states that the referendum has no legal force? Is a recognition that are different points of view on this question extremism?
And what about calls to hold talks with Ukraine on the status of Crimea?
There is a sense that this new initiative (if it were to be accepted) would make any sort of public discussion about the peninsula a crime and open the way to other bans – for example banning doubts about the legitimacy of any election results.
Moreover, Bastrykin compares the ban on denying the referendum results on Crimea with the ban on fascist ideology, and similarly with the criminal liability, as it exists in some countries, for denying the Armenian genocide and the Holocaust.
This is an irrelevant comparison. It is one thing when what we are talking about is the deaths of millions of people and attempts to make certain that nothing of the sort ever happens again; and it is something quite different when we are talking about adjusting state borders.Translated by Frances Robson
Translation by Frances Robson
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