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January 4, 2016

The Pernicious Cycle of Criminalizing Peaceful Protests

Russia’s newly reformed legislature on public assemblies seems innocent enough, albeit a tad harsh. The resulting impositions on freedom of expression, however, reek of international human rights law violations and hostility toward government critics seeps through the law’s innocuous façade.

Russia’s newly reformed legislature on public assemblies seems innocent enough, albeit a tad harsh. The resulting impositions on freedom of expression, however, reek of international human rights law violations and hostility toward government critics seeps through the law’s innocuous façade.

The new law entails an increase in the already substantive fines to be paid upon breaching any rule regarding public events and permits the detention of any member of an unauthorized public assembly (Human Rights Watch, 2014). Anyone sentenced for “repeated violations of the established order of organization or conduction of a gathering, rally, demonstration, march, or picket” twice in the span of 180 days may be the unfortunate recipient of up to five years in prison (Human Rights Watch, 2014). It was immediately clear that these amendments were moulded with malice, as the legislature is clearly saturated with contempt for the Russian government’s adversaries; Hugh Williamson, Human Rights Watch’s Europe and Central Asia Director laments that “the Russian authorities want to criminalize public criticism” (Human Rights Watch, 2014). The inevitable attack on peaceful protest has officially begun, commencing with Ildar Dadin’s three-year sentence as per a Moscow court’s mandate. Ironically, the protest which launched Dadin’s reign of crime was in response to the conviction of peaceful activists participating in the May 7th 2012 Bolotnaya demonstration, fueling a pernicious cycle of protest and prosecution too fervent to ever end (Amnesty International, 2015).

John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Director, calls Dadin’s sentence “shocking”, labels the amended Russian law a “shortcut for imprisoning activists”, and mournfully asserts that it is “more dangerous to be a peaceful activist in Russia than at any time in recent years” (Amnesty International, 2015). Even a single violation, such as participating in a public assembly without the authorities’ consent now warrants a hefty fine or 15-day detention, effectively legalizing the abuse of the basic human right to freedom of assembly. The law-makers responsible for this reprehensible new legislature attempt to justify their decision with talk of repeat offenders and the need for stricter sanctions (Amnesty International, 2015). The attack on freedom of assembly, however, has been amplified in recent years, and the last thing Russia needs is stricter sanctions. Excessive force is too often used by police when attempting to disband public rallies, especially those led by the political opposition. Amnesty International demands the immediate retraction of this tyrannical and oppressive law, as well as Ildar Dadin’s unconditional release (Amnesty International, 2015). In order to bolster Amnesty’s efforts in realizing these demands, one can advocate for Dadin or against the new law through writing letters to the Russian authorities and spreading awareness about this pressing issue.

iamnesty.org

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