Bill against illegal rallies violates Constitution – Rights Council

Participants of the March of Millions protest rally during the procession held along Bolshaya Yakimanka Street to Bolotnaya Square. (RIA Novosti/Iliya Pitalev)
The Presidential Human Rights Council has concluded the new bill on rallies contradicts Russia’s Constitution and clears the way to “administrative tyranny.”

“The bill’s major defect is that it actually suggests criminalizing the use of the basic constitutional right – the right to peaceful assemblies (Article 31),” the Council said in a statement published on its official website.

The experts also ruled that the draft law contradicts the Constitution in “the way it was passed”. It also runs counter to Russian Administrative, Labor, and Criminal Codes.

The council states the new law introduces criminal liability for administrative offences. To add more, the document fails to define clearly what actions will lead to criminal punishment.

The fines the bill introduces for violations for organizing and holding mass rallies are disproportionate to the incomes of the majority of Russian citizens as well as to the minimum wage set by the state, the rights experts pointed out.

The head of the body, Mikhail Fedotov said he would pass the original copy of the statement to Vladimir Putin and expressed hope that the President would take it into consideration.

Earlier this week, the controversial law was passed by both the lower and upper houses of the Russian parliament. Before coming into force, it has to be signed by the President.

The new law raises the maximum fine for ordinary citizens found guilty of participating in illegal street protest to 300,000 roubles (about $9,000) from the current 2,000 roubles (under $70). Meanwhile, the fine for officials will increase from the current 50,000 to 600,000 roubles ($1300 – $20,000).The bill allows individuals the option of performing up to 200 hours of community service instead of paying the penalty, which may prove exorbitant for some protesters.