Lev Ponomarev: President signs into law odious anti-terror legislation drafted by Irina Yarovaya

posted 15 Jul 2016, 06:06 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 17 Jul 2016, 09:47 ]
8 July 2016

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Аpostrof]

By Lev Ponomarev, human rights defender, leader of the movement For Human Rights and member of the Moscow Helsinki Group

On 7 July President of Russia Vladimir Putin signed into law anti-terrorist legislation drafted by State Duma deputy Irina Yarovaya and senator Viktor Ozerov.

Thanks to the so-called "Yarovaya law", teenagers aged 14 and upwards can now be prosecuted in the same way as adults for any kind of "extremism": taking part in mass demonstrations, etc. This virtually amounts to a policy of taking people to court for dissent — for reposting someone else's post or 'liking' it on social media. This practice has been gradually making its way to Moscow from the regions and provinces. In short, it means that mass repressions are being carried out as in the Stalinist period. But whereas in Soviet times people were punished for taking ears of corn from the fields, we now have reposts on the internet. And mass protests will be classified as riots just as they were on Bolotnaya Square [in 2012]. And now this burden will come to rest on the shoulders of 14-year-old children.

There had been a previous proposal to introduce an absolutely anti-constitutional procedure enabling the imposition of a ban on someone leaving the country for five years, as a preventative measure on the basis of a ‘warning’ — that is, without any court ruling. And there was no explanation even as to who would have the power to issue such a ‘warning.’ This would have meant that any security forces body whatever could issue a warning to prevent anyone at all from participating in a mass demonstration. Of course, this all looks like total craziness. Maybe they put forward such crazy, ridiculous rules so that when they stepped back from them, it would look as though they had compromised. It's quite possible that that was the game they were actually playing.

The objective is to intimidate the population as much as possible. It's not certain that the new laws will take effect immediately, but if they do, thousands of people could be prosecuted. Incidentally, this doesn't mean that this will all start tomorrow. There was too much outrage from different sectors of the population regarding these laws. I would even say that the laws were rejected outright by civil society. Let us hope that this attitude continues even now that the law has been adopted.

More people will now emigrate from Russia, since people are increasingly disappointed about the country's chances for a peaceful transition to democracy. More and more people doubt whether it will be possible to stop repression in Russia by means of political pressure, demonstrations and elections. This means that the situation could destabilise, with the use of force and arms.

The Presidential Human Rights Council has twice spoken out against the adoption of the "Yarovaya Laws". This suggests that a struggle is going on around Putin. Nevertheless, Putin has taken the FSB's position, which means that the FSB has more influence and exerts more leverage on the Russian President.

Translated by Suzanne Eade Roberts