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State Duma passes in first reading controversial law on fines for rallies

May 23, 2012, 12:08 UTC+3

Human rights activists believe that the increase in fines will cause extortion of bribes

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MOSCOW, May 23 (Itar-Tass World Service)

Members of the State Duma lower house of parliament by a majority of votes of the United Russia faction on Tuesday passed in the first reading a bill on a considerable rise in fines for the violation of the rules of the organisation and conduct of rallies and other mass events. Human rights activists believe that the increase in fines will cause extortion of bribes from the activists who are brought to responsibility. 

CPRF, LDPR and A Just Russia factions on Tuesday opposed the adoption by the State Duma in the first reading of amendments to the Code of Administrative Offences, toughening the responsibility of mass actions’ organisers and participants for various violations of the law, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. Thus, only United Russia voted in favour of toughening of the Code of Administrative Offences. United Russia members continued to insist citizens’ safety is above all, and Article 31 of the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of assembly, refers only to peaceful mass actions. The ruling party presented its vision of the amendments for the second reading. Fines worth millions of roubles will not be introduced, but by court decision that or other active rally participant can be qualified as one of its organisers. This means that he can be brought to tougher responsibility. United Russia intends to introduce a penalty also for the notorious ‘strolling’ of citizens in the streets.

The opposition members were habitually slamming the severity of penalties and also wondering how the legislation can be amended on the grounds of just once action – March of Millions on May 6, the newspaper notes. However, none of the opposition members asked a single question and gave any comment on the finalisation of the bill. Meanwhile, the relevant committee of the State Duma on Tuesday presented ambitious plans in this direction.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta has learnt that the Duma opposition ignores the new portion of tightening measures for a reason. According to a source in an opposition faction, “the more the party in power ‘snubs’ people, the sooner they will take to the streets in even larger numbers.”

One of the leaders of the Solidarity movement, lawyer Sergei Davidis, quoted by Novye Izvestia, pointed out that this bill is an extremely prohibitive policing measure, designed in principle to deprive citizens of their right to freedom of assembly. “Responsibility is toughened under two articles: for violation of the order of holding public events and, for the sake of symmetry - for the obstruction of public events under which no one ever has been brought to responsibility, though,” Sergei Davidis said. “In this connection the size of the maximum fines for individuals is raised. At present, this fine is worth 50 thousand roubles, and will be increased up to 1.5 million roubles.” Also, according to Sergei Davidis, this law in the broadest sense can be called corruptive, because it allows arbitrariness and the use of the law norms in their favour both by law enforcers, police officers and judges.

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