Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Moscow Plans to Track Anyone Convicted of Extremism after Release from Prison

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 20 – In what represents yet another threat to the constitutional rights of Russian citizens, the Russian government is preparing a draft law that would allow officials to administratively supervise anyone who has been convicted and sentenced to the penal system for extremism and terrorism after his or her release, “Izvestiya” reports today.

            While such monitoring might be appropriate in particular cases to prevent recidivism, the Kremlin’s expansive and elastic definition of “extremism” means that such a measure would open the way to the kind of monitoring of individuals that was typical of the worst periods of Soviet rule (izvestia.ru/news/571039 and kasparov.ru/material.php?id=537ADDAAD8BC9).

Indeed, the paper notes that this kind of supervision after release by the Interior Ministry “existed in Soviet times” but eliminated thereafter except in the cases of certain crimes like pedophilia. 

            The draft measure reportedly would require that anyone convicted of extremism or terrorism appear before the police up to four times a month, not take part in any meetings or demonstrations, and be subject to a curfew in their place of residence and be restricted from travelling elsewhere in the country.

            Moreover, as “Izvestiya” reports, the new law, if approved, would give representatives of the force structures the right to visit such people without notice.  The length of such administrative supervision would be set by the courts. At present, the draft is being reviewed by government ministries.

            Those behind the measure justify this step by saying that an analysis of those released after serving a sentence for terrorism or extremism shows that “about 70 percent of those [who had been supporters of “radical structures” and then were convicted, served time, and released] take part in extremist actions.”

            At the same time, the Moscow paper reports, those who have prepared the draft acknowledge that there are “certain problems” which they need to address.  Among those is defining what court will be authorized to decide on such supervision if “the individual freed from the camps has no place of [permanent] residence.”

            Mariya Kravchenko, a specialist at the SOVA human rights center, said that there might not be any problem with such a measure if it were restricted to those convicted of terrorism, but the situation of those sentenced for extremism is very different: “The majority of [such] people are condemned” are found guilty in ways that violate the law.

            But a Russian MVD officer said that such “administrative monitoring existed already in the times of the USSR and was a very effective measure.” Restoring such arrangements, he said, “would significantly simplify the work of officers and be a powerful prophylactic measure which would allow them to control the leaders of extremist organizations.”

            This measure comes on the heels of Vladimir Putin’s May 6 signing into law of a measure increasing criminal and administrative penalties for crimes involving terrorism or extremism.  That law eliminated the statute of limitations on such crimes and specified that those who commit them to justify and support terrorism will be subject to additional penalties.

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