8 December 2021
by Leonid Nikitinsky, Novaya gazeta columnist, member of the Presidential Human Rights Council, laureate of the Moscow Helsinki Group Award
The amendments to the Law on the Police adopted by the State Duma did not essentially expand the powers of the police and turned out to be relatively harmless for citizens
On 8 December the State Duma passed in its final reading amendments to the law ‘On the Police,’ which were less fearful than they had threatened us with. Numerous miler proposals for the second reading had been introduced by deputies from the CPRF, Just Russia and LDPR factions.
The bill in its first reading, which was approved by the previous Duma a year ago, proposed, among other things, expanding the grounds for the use of firearms not only in cases of immediate danger to a police officer or other persons, but also in cases of citizens committing ‘other actions which give grounds to consider them as creating a threat of attack.’ In response to suggestions to somehow make this excessively vague wording more specific, this paragraph was excluded from the draft. At the same time an alternative amendment that would have regulated the use of non-lethal weapons or other special means by the police was also rejected.
The proposal to exempt police officers from ‘prosecution for actions committed in the performance of their duties, and in connection with the exercise of rights granted to the police, if these actions were carried out on the grounds and in the manner prescribed by federal constitutional laws, this Federal Law, other federal laws and other regulatory legal acts that constitute the legal basis of police activity’ drew the strongest criticism in discussions of the bill. Amendments to this point were proposed to the contrary, indicating the right of victims to claim compensation for harm caused to their health or property by the actions of the police, to be funded from the state budget. The result was the deletion of this paragraph in the final version as well.
Therefore the right to compensation for damage caused by police actions in accordance with the general procedure, established by the Civil Code, was preserved.
One of the additional amendments proposed to oblige the police to record all stages of interaction between police officers and the citizens with the ‘use of mobile technical means that have the functions of video recording.’ However, the majority of deputies decided that it would ‘entail significant costs to provide each officer with technical means of video recording, their repair, software and maintenance, periodic replacement and renewal,’ while the bill proposed more than a year ago did not provide for additional funds from the state budget.
The final version of the amendments to the law ‘On the Police’ has consolidated (in the form of rights to inspect premises and cars, to set up barriers, including at public events) practices that had already been established on the basis of departmental orders. It is hard to conclude on this basis that any trends in policy with regard to repressive policing have changed. Rather, the point is that the law enforcement lobby have lost its most active supporters in the Duma and, possibly, not only among lawmakers.
Translated by Simon Cosgrove