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Russia’s government negatively reacted to the bill proposing punishment for those who insult religious feelings. The bill should be refined as some of its provisions repeat the existing norms of the Criminal Code and can “compete” with them, while some wordings are vague and unclear.
The Criminal Code’s existing norms on hooliganism and vandalism are quite enough to punish those who insult religious feelings and to toughen punishment MPs can supplement the existing articles of the Criminal Code, the Kommersant business daily cited the government’s review. The State Duma agreed to take into consideration the government’s comments while preparing the bill for the second reading.
The government’s silence was the main reason why the lower house of parliament has not yet considered the bill toughening punishment for the insult of religious feelings submitted for consideration last September, the daily wrote. There were no doubts that the bill would be adopted by the State Duma as parliamentarians from all four factions had authored it. Moreover, the bill appeared amid a high-profile criminal case against Pussy Riot band members who performed “a punk prayer” at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior. But in compliance with the State Duma rules, the bill cannot be considered without the government’s official review.
During this time the Public Chamber managed to give a negative review to the initiative put forward by the State Duma. President Vladimir Putin instructed the presidential council on human rights to join the resolution of the problem. The council also did not approve the measures chosen to protect religious freedom of believers. Parliamentarians proposed to submit a special article into the Criminal Code incorporating tougher punishment – up to three years in a penal colony for the insult of religious feelings and up to five years for desecration of religious sanctities. The presidential council on human rights proposed not to put them into a separate article, but to supplement the existing articles of the Criminal Code punishing for hooliganism, vandalism and instigation of hatred, including religious one.
The bill instantaneously evoked comments by legal experts, Rossiyskaya Gazeta reported. They pointed to too many evaluating and abstract categories that make it possible to interpret the proposed norms in a too broad sense. Having studied the bill the government also found some gaps. For instance, the government said in its official review that “the effective legislation does not define such notions as ‘worldview symbolic’ and ‘religions making an integral part of the Russian historic heritage’ contained in the bill.”
Experts who had criticized the bill earlier were satisfied with the government’s resolution. “The bill as it was demonstrated to the public at large was shocking,” said Nikolai Svanidze, a member of the presidential council on human rights. “It is destructive and dangerous for the society.”