Human Rights Watch: Russia’s State Duma should drop proposed amendments that would further restrict the law on public gatherings, Human Rights Watch said today. The draconian amendments and other recent pernicious legislative initiatives to suppress critics of the government take Russia even farther astray from its international human rights obligations.
The proposed amendments, submitted by the lower chamber of Russia’s parliament on March 31, 2014, would increase the already significant fines for violating rules on holding public events and provide that a participant of an unauthorized public gathering can be punished by administrative arrest, and, if a repeat offender of the rules, can be subject to criminal sanctions. According to the amendments, “repeated violations of the established order of organization or conduction of a gathering, rally, demonstration, march, or picket” would constitute a criminal offense punishable by up to five years of imprisonment. The penalty would apply to those who have been sentenced for organizing or participating in an unauthorized public gathering more than twice in 180 calendar days.
“The Russian authorities want to criminalize public criticism,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director. “They’re threatening peaceful demonstrators with prison time.” [Continue reading…]