Russian Government Prepares Law Toughening “Extremist” Articles

July 1, 2013
Russian Duma/AFP / East News

The maxim term of imprisonment for taking part in an extremist association has been increased from two to four years under a draft law that the Russian government has submitted to the State Duma. Furthermore, the fine for this violation of the law is increased from 40,000 to 100,000 rubles. The relevant amendments have been proposed for Art. 282.1 of the Russian Criminal Code (“Organization of an Extremist Association”)

The Cabinet of Ministers decided to toughen the punishment under the “extremism” articles overall. The government has proposed amendments to several articles at once.

In the most-used charge – Art. 282 of the Russian Criminal Code (“Incitement of Hatred or Enmity”), the term of forced labor is increased from two to four years. In addition, the punishment under the second part of this article is made more severe (if the crime is committed with threat of the use of force or use of official position). The minimum fine has been increased from 100,000 to 300,000 rubles. The maximum fine of half a million rubles remains.

According to the draft law, punishment for organizing the activity of an association deemed to be extremist (Art. 282.2) will be up to six years of imprisonment. A fine of up to 500,000 rubles is also envisioned.

“If the government does not make a sufficient response, the destructive processes occurring at the present time in the world as a whole and on the territory of Russia, emerging in the form of extremist manifestations, rapidly transform into their most dangerous form – active criminal deeds of a terrorist nature. Combatting crimes of an extremist nature is one of the priority tasks for the government at this stage,” a memo accompanying the draft explains.

The draft was prepared by the Ministry of Justice. The document was ready in March, and was sent then to the government for approval. In late May it was reported that the draft was approved, although its content was not divulged.

Under Art. 282, political activists have been constantly persecuted including supporters of Eduard Limonov’s Other Russia party. In December 2012, seven St. Petersburg activists of his party were fined from 150,000 to 200,000 rubles. Some of them were charged with taking part in the activity of an organization deemed to be extremist, and the others were charged with organizing the activity of this movement. The investigation believed that the activists were continuing the activity of the National Bolshevik Party, which has been banned by a court order.

Experts have repeatedly criticized the anti-extremist law for its overly broad formulations. “The existing anti-extremist law does not take into account the difference between dangerous manifestations of intolerance, amoral behavior and non-standard worldviews. This creates cases of application of the law that become persistent abuses,” said the Sova Center, an organization that tracks the practice of application of the “extremist” articles.