On the undermining of the foundations of law in Russia. Statement by Human Rights Defenders and Members of the Congress of the Intelligentsia

22 May 2021

Pictured left: Ilya Shablinsky, a legal expert, member of the Moscow Helsinki Group and one of the signatories of the statement

 Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Эхо Москвы

On 4 May 2021 State Duma deputies V.I. Piskarev (United Russia faction), A.G. Alshevsky (United Russia), N.I. Ryzhak (A Just Russia), A.K. Isaev (United Russia), R.D. Kurbanov (KPRF), D.I. Saveliev (LDPR), A.V. Chepa (A Just Russia), AL Shkhagoshev (United Russia) submitted a bill that affects the rights of Russian citizens with regard to ‘involvement in the activities of an organisation recognized as extremist’ to the Duma.  The rights of persons can be restricted for actions committed within the period ‘starting three years before the court decision’s entry into force’ for members of the organisation and ‘one year’ for those ‘involved.’

Everyone is already accustomed to the vague, ‘flexible’ formulations introduced into Russian legislation that are designed to be interpreted in a broad and arbitrary way. The new draft law stands out even against this background. It gives the law retroactive force in contradiction of the provisions of Article 54 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation. It is legally absurd and simply criminal as it openly encroaches on the rights of citizens and the constitutional order: no one can be punished for actions that were not recognized as illegal at the time they were carried out. It is impossible to predict who exactly in Putin’s Russia will be recognised as extremists: today it’s Navalny’s team, tomorrow it could be any public, religious or political association that the authorities or special services find objectionable. 

Any state body, adopting, approving or applying this law, loses its legitimacy as it demonstratively violates the fundamental principles of law and the constitutional norms of the Russian Federation. Moreover, it is a direct path to the escalation of civil confrontation in our country. 

We demand an open discussion of this bill. 

We demand an open parliamentary hearing on this bill. 

We call on the Human Rights Ombudsman in the Russian Federation to fulfil her mission and resolutely oppose anti-constitutional bills that infringe on the rights of Russian citizens. 

We call on the Federal Bar Association to publicly oppose the adoption of this law. 

For a list of signatories, see here 

Translated by Matthew Quigley

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