Human Rights Council moves to obstruct bill on illegal rallies

RIA Novosti/Vladimir Astapkovich
The chairman of Russia’s presidential Human Rights Council will ask the president to veto a draft law on toughening punishment for violations during protest rallies, if it passes both houses.

­“This bill is a step in the opposite direction from the needs of society today,” Mikhail Fedotov told Interfax. “It is vital that amendments to legislation on rallies and demos strengthen citizens’ rights instead of infringing upon them.”

On Tuesday, the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, approved the draft law in the first reading. The new legislation was only supported by the United Russia faction, while three opposition factions – the Communists, Lib Dems and Fair Russia – voted against it. Fair Russia even refused to join the debates.

The bill suggests raising the maximum fines for violations during street protests from the current 2,000 rubles (under $30) to a hefty 1.5 million rubles (about $50,000).

Under a second reading, the suggested maximum fines will be reduced to 300,000 rubles for individuals, 500,000 for legal entities and 600,000 for state officials.

“It’s not the size of the penalty that matters, we should significantly change the rules for holding rallies and federal legislation in this field,”
Fedotov believes.