Staunton, July 29 – Two weeks ago, Vladimir Putin signed into law amendments to Russia’s law on extremism that create a new database of extremist materials and a new register of individuals deemed to be involved in extremist activities. Exactly how these measures will be applied is uncertain, but the implications are worrisome, experts say.
Victoria Arnold of Forum 18 offers the most comprehensive discussion to date of these as yet still little known changes in Russian law and quotes experts as saying that these measures will undermine still further the remaining rights that the Russian constitution says the country’s citizens enjoy (forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2766).
One of the measures Putin signed creates a new list of individuals involved in extremist activities without defining just who that is. The other calls for the creation of a new database of extremist materials by July 2023. The first of these will be public; but the second will be available only to law enforcement and judicial personnel.
The first of these, human rights lawyer Sergey Chugunov says, will likely include people who are only suspected of being involved because inclusion on this list unlike on earlier list does not require any finding by the courts or even an identifiable government body. “Aleksandr Verkhovsky of the SOVA Center says that as a result, “anyone could end up” on it.
Up to now, the primary consequence of being on earlier extremist lists was to deny individuals there of the right to run for office. “But of course,” Verkhovsky continues, “there will be a temptation to use the register for other restrictions” as well, thus making this additional list extremely worrisome.
As far as the new database is concerned, Arnold notes that the Justice Ministry will not be empowered to maintain a file of all materials found to be extremist by the courts. Access to such materials and possibly to the list itself will be tightly restricted. Indeed, it may become analogous to the old spetskran sections of libraries in Soviet times.