Tomorrow (5 June) a second reading will be held in the Duma of a bill aimed at considerably tightening the laws concerning assemblies and processions in Russia.
Against this background, the Coordinator of German-Russian Intersocietal Cooperation Andreas Schockenhoff made the following statement:
The present draft legislation raises doubts as to the will of the new Russian Government to advance democratization. Dramatically increased fines and a further tightening of the legislation on demonstration represent severe restrictions on the freedom of assembly in Russia. Criticism from within Russia concerning inadequate protection against the imposition of arbitrary conditions and bans by authorities like that expressed by Russia’s Council on Human Rights, the Duma opposition and legal experts is being ignored.
This is the wrong signal to Russia’s citizens. Diversity of opinion and competition of ideas are not being promoted – instead new restrictions threaten to widen the growing rift between state and citizens. Instead of working to interest society in a new dialogue and a fresh start the state is compromising citizens’ readiness to engage in the necessary comprehensive modernization of their country.
In March, the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission revealed the deficits of Russian laws concerning assemblies and demonstration. Instead of remedying the deficits, however, new rules are being introduced which are contrary to the Commission’s recommendations. Thus, Russia is putting itself even more in opposition to its commitment to respect the European Human Rights Convention.
The bill introduced in parliament on the initiative of the majority party “United Russia” aims at drastically raising the fines for violations of the assembly and demonstration legislation from current rather low sums ranging from 100 to 5000 roubles to up to 600,000 roubles. Additionally, the laws on assembly and demonstration, already criticized as too restrictive by various sides, are being tightened further.
In its opinion of March 2012, the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) of the Council of Europe called for numerous improvements to Russian laws concerning assemblies and processions. According to experts, the assembly law considerably restricts the freedom to demonstrate in Russia. Experts claim that the principles of proportionality and non‑discrimination are not sufficiently respected and that there are not enough safeguards against arbitrary conditions and bans imposed by the authorities.