Law of the Week: Duma adopts bill making criminal prosecution for affiliation with ‘undesirable’ organisations easier

Week-ending 18 June 2021

On 16 June 2021 the State Duma approved in a third and final reading the bill facilitating criminalisation of participation in the activities of foreign organisations designated ‘undesirable’ in Russia. Human Rights Watch has described the new amendments as follows: “The new amendments make it easier to open criminal cases for alleged affiliation with undesirable organizations. Previously criminal proceedings could only be initiated if the targeted person already had  two administrative sentences within the previous year.  Under the new law, the authorities could open criminal cases alleging that a person has a  leadership or management role in an undesirable organization without any prior offenses. This offense carries a punishment of up to six years in prison. Also, the authorities will be able to press criminal “participation” charges if a person had only one prior administrative sentence on the same charge, or right away – if a person had a prior criminal conviction for the same, carrying a punishment of up to four years in prison. Under another amendment, anyone making donations, or organizing crowdfunding or providing unspecified “financial services” to the blacklisted organizations can immediately face criminal charges and up to five years in prison. These amendments, that are highly likely to become the law soon, expose a wide range of activists to a high risk of criminal prosecution.”


RFE/RL, 15 June 2021: Lyubov Sobol, a lawyer for jailed Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), says she is quitting her bid to become a member of parliament in order to protect her campaign team from being prosecuted under a draconian law that targets Navalny’s associates. Her announcement follows a move by Russian authorities last week that banned all organizations associated with Navalny and labeled them as extremist groups. Sobol told reporters in Moscow on June 14 that she cannot ensure the safety of her campaign team or sponsors in the run-up to September’s elections for Russia’s lower chamber of parliament, the State Duma.

RFE/RL, 16 June 2021: The Russian parliament’s lower chamber, the State Duma, has approved the third and final reading of a bill that would criminalize participation in the activities of foreign or international NGOs declared “undesirable” in Russia. Under the bill approved on June 16, individuals may face up to six years in prison if found guilty of organizing operations of “undesirable” international organizations on Russian territory.

Human Rights Watch, 17 June 2021: At his post-summit news conference on Wednesday President Putin defended Russia’s repressive laws that punish dissent. With most eyes on Geneva, the Duma made one of those laws a lot harsher. It amended the criminal code to open the floodgates to criminal prosecutions of activists allegedly linked to blacklisted “undesirable” foreign organizations.

Other news:

RFE/RL, 12 June 2021: Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a bill into law imposing penalties for disclosing the personal data of security officials or their relatives, a move that could further hamstring efforts to expose corruption or hold Russian officials accountable. Punishments for offenders include jail sentences, house arrest, forced labor, and fines of up to 18 months’ salary. The law could discourage the kind of exposés that jailed anti-corruption lawyer Aleksei Navalny and other Kremlin critics have published, highlighting dodgy properties linked to senior officials like Putin and ex-President Dmitry Medvedev.

RFE/RL, 17 June 2021: The Russian parliament’s lower chamber, the State Duma, has approved in the third and final reading a bill that would require foreign information technology (IT) companies to set up local units or face penalties including a possible ban, as Moscow continues to tighten its control over the flow of information on the Internet. The bill, approved by lawmakers on June 17, would require foreign IT companies with a daily audience of at least 500,000 people to set up full-fledged branches in Russia that would be “responsible for violations of Russian legislation.”

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