Russia: New encroachment on freedom to protest


Those planning “single-person pickets” may soon be obliged to submit an application to the authorities. The radio station Echo Moskvy reports that a draft amendment to the law on gatherings, rallies and demonstrations has already been submitted to the State Duma on the initiative of the Moscow Regional Duma. Political activists would have to inform the authorities of their plan to hold such a picket no less than one working day before.

The explanatory note claims that there are situations when single pickets carry out acts of self-immolation or when they are attacked, while the local authorities, as a rule, do not even note about such protests being planned.

According to present legislation, it is not necessary to inform the authorities of a public measure involving only one person. This possibility has on many occasions been used by protesters when the local authorities banned mass events.

In fact, the police have still regularly detained those holding single person pickets, generally with the use of a provocateur, though also without.

This initiative regarding compulsory agreeing of single-person pickets is the second proposal to toughen legislation on public protest recently. On 28 December a draft law was tabled which envisages up to two years imprisonment for protesters who block roads.

Lev Ponomarev, Executive Director of the movement “For Human Rights”

One of the last possibilities for ordinary people to exercise their rights is being lost. If a person is linked with some political groups, he knows how to submit applications for a picket or rally. An ordinary person simply knows that at any moment he can go out on the street  and hold a single-person picket and nobody will detain him.

The fact that the Moscow Regional Duma claims to be acted in the interests of the picketers themselves is pure cynicism and shows yet again how removed quasi-elected regional parliaments are from the voters. In any normal country, the opponents of such parliamentarians would make the electorate aware of what the people they’d voted for were doing. If the voters went to the elections and voted with full responsibility, they wouldn’t vote for such swine.

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